College Group meets the standard

Bishop Auckland College Group is celebrating after achieving international standard recognition.


Recently the college group welcomed an inspector from matrix Standard - an international quality standard for information, advice, and guidance (IAG) services to assess the careers guidance and related advice and support students receive across the college, Durham Gateway and South West Durham Training.

Shaun Hope, Principal and CEO of the college group, said “We are always keen to assess ourselves against the highest possible standard and matrix is certainly that. The visit and subsequent report provide great feedback for us to learn from and importantly for us to celebrate with our students.”

The report found that the proportion of full-time students gaining positive destinations (employment or education progression) is continuing to improve – up from 86.3% in 2020-21 to 93.6% of 2022-23 completers.

It said: “Much of this has been the result of establishing a team which focuses specifically on the progression of students, i.e. the Student Progression Team. However, this improvement is also the result of raising students’ aspirations.

“This includes factors such as ensuring students are well-informed about career opportunities and are well prepared for making their chosen next steps; as well as curriculum teams enriching students’ learning experiences through the involvement of inspirational speakers and industry visits.”

The four day visit included meetings with senior leaders, staff, partner organisations and students as well as attending events, and visiting classrooms. One student, quoted in the report, said “the college is very inclusive, I have never been treated differently by anyone” whilst another student said, “staff always give you the feeling that they want you here.”

Partner organisations were also glowing with their support, with one Headteacher adding “the relationship is important, they don’t give up on the student.”

The Student Progression Team focuses on four key areas:

• Facilitation - helping students to locate suitable and realistic opportunities

• Mentoring - providing individualised support

• Advocacy - working with college teams and external organisations to advocate for individual students

• Brokerage - understanding the labour market in order to broker sustainable positive destinations.

Matrix 2

Effective cross department working to ensure students are well supported and successful, was noted as demonstrably strong. Staff, collectively, see the aim of doing the very best by the student as being the key feature of their work with the report adding that staff offer support and guidance at all levels and then signpost effectively where this is necessary. This approach creates a holistic environment where students feel well supported.

It also acknowledged high student satisfaction rates – 98% of learners who completed the student satisfaction survey for 2022-23 said they were happy with the support they receive regarding their chosen career path, with 91.7% of completing students saying they had held progression discussions with members of staff.

Partnership working was highlighted as a strong feature of the college group’s ethos and commitment to providing the very best opportunities for students. Completion rates of work placement for study programme students were high with 96% of students completing an external placement with an employer in 2022-23.

South West Durham Training’s partnership working was praised for the benefits it was bringing to young people. A story book aimed at primary school aged children about a robot called ‘Bolt’ is currently being produced to raise aspirations of children in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), funded via a Local Skills Improvement Fund project.

The report also highlighted the launch of a Student Progression Hub, located next to the college’s refectory, which has led to an increase in the use of the drop-in service. There is a strong focus placed on the wellbeing of staff and students, including access to in house counselling and emotional resilience support. Other support offered includes advice on transport and student funding, while a Welfare Hub for students and their families has recently been introduced to offer advice on the cost of living crisis.

The matrix Standard assessor spoke to 44 members of staff, 30 students and five stakeholders including headteachers and employers. A school stakeholder said: “Bishop Auckland College are always willing to make something happen for our young people, even if that means signposting them to provision elsewhere.”

An employer added: “I want the best candidate, and Bishop Auckland College want to get the best candidate for me; they really care about who we get.”

Student Progression Manager Jennifer Phillips said “We are delighted to achieve matrix Standard Accreditation. The support we offer our students is very individualised and we are determined to help them get the best possible outcome when they complete their course with us. It was fantastic to hear such positive comments from our students, employers and partner organisations which demonstrates our high quality IAG and unique culture of the college group.”

Bishop Auckland College Group CEO Shaun Hope added: “This is a superb report which lays out in detail why our students are achieving increasing success with their choice of progression in education or employment on successfully completing their programmes with us. Well done to the Student Progression Team and all the colleagues who have supported them to achieve the matrix Standard.”