Abingdon & Witney College take practical learning into the community

Abingdon and Witney College is the winner of this year’s AoC Beacon Award for Practical Learning and Practical Teaching, sponsored by Edge. It is a medium-sized further education college serving the local community of Oxfordshire and the surrounding areas.  

Courses available include study programmes, adult learning programmes and apprenticeships. The college has three main sites in Abingdon, Witney and a rural centre in Hailey with community learning taking place in a number of community-based hub centres.

It was the college’s innovative approach to cross curriculum practical teaching which attracted the judges’ attention. The Action Tap initiative started on a relatively small scale in 2015 in The Oxfordshire Business and Enterprise School (TOBES) working with local primary and special schools through student-led projects. 

It brings together students across business, accounting, sport, public services and events and tourism, to work collaboratively on projects to support causes within the community. Past examples include sports coaching at schools, running charity events, visiting hospitals and attending business events.

Edge’s Head of Projects and Partnerships, Jane Samuels, who presented the college’s Head of Faculty, Angela Hayles, with the award at a ceremony in November, said:

‘The college has developed a unique faculty-wide approach to the teaching of practical skills. Action Tap is a great example of how real-world learning can equip young people with the skills the need for the workplace and beyond.’ 

Specific practical skills are identified in consultation with external partners and embedded into on-line Individual Learning Plans for students. A stakeholder panel, consisting of Student Ambassadors, external partners and staff, oversees the performance and impact.

The overall aim of the TOBES Action Tap is to offer a creative practical approach developing a moral and social code in young people, which will improve their employability and lead to an ethos of respect and responsibility. 

The key objectives for TOBES Action Tap are:

•To develop innovative practical teaching and learning strategies that reflect real life learning

•To convince young people that something good may happen if they contribute to a caring community

•To help young people to reflect on a generosity of spirit that encourages creativity and an appetite to give back 

•To let the community see how amazing young people are

The introduction of this practical approach to teaching has seen excellent progress made by students resulting a 76% reduction in students self-assessing as needing to develop specific transferable skills and a 15% increase in those students rating their transferable skills as excellent.

This model is designed to push students to their limits in all aspects of their learning. There is sometimes a physical challenge due to the nature of some projects, and certainly mentally challenging, providing situations that take students far out of their cosy daily life.

Students develop analytical and evaluative skills within Action Tap projects, which has transferred to assignment work resulting in significantly improved value added scores which now stand in the top 4% of all general FE colleges in England.

This approach is delivered from within current resources, relying on the creative and stimulating approach taken by the teaching team.  The key success criteria is instilling a whole faculty approach rather than individual course teams conducting projects in isolation. This has taken an ordinary experience for our students and made it extraordinary.

Find out more by contacting:

Angela Hayles, Head of Faculty, Abingdon & Witney College

Email: angela.hayles@abingdon-witney.ac.uk 

Tel: 01235 216394