Following a successful first visit to BAE Systems in Lancashire in June, the commissioners visited Bridgwater College, Somerset in September. There, they learned how technology is transforming land-based teaching and learning – joining a group of students monitoring a cow’s pregnancy on a scanner which was propped up in a wheelbarrow in a cattle shed; visited the Energy Skills Centre developed in partnership with EDF Energy to learn how the college is supporting nuclear decommissioning and a re-build at Hinkley Point; and met teachers, trainers and students working on hair and beauty, furniture making and motor vehicle programmes.
The Commission’s approach is to work from practice to theory. Each meeting includes a reflective discussion, led by the Commission’s academic partner Professor Lorna Unwin*, to learn from the visit and to begin to identify the features and characteristics of excellent vocational teaching and learning and what might be transferable.
Reflections on the visit to Bridgwater are still emerging, but commissioners were struck by how strong colleges can:
- be responsive to employers’ needs;
- provide high quality vocational education and training for full-time and part-time students of all ages and abilities across a wide range of programmes; and
- attract high quality vocational teachers from industry.
The close partnership working between the college and local employers had a positive impact on the quality of vocational teaching and learning and highlighted the college’s role in supporting local economic development.
A summary of commissioners’ reflective discussions following the Bridgwater meeting will soon be published on the Commission website.
*Lorna is Chair in Vocational Education and Deputy Director of the ESRC-funded Research Centre, Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES), Institute of Education, University of London.