Weston College has won the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education, one of only two Further Education colleges in the country to be awarded this prestigious honour this year.
The award comes just weeks after Weston College took home two Association of Colleges’ (AoC) Beacon Awards for Widening Participation and Learners with Learning Difficulties and/or Disabilities at the AoC National Conference.
The Queen’s Award is one of the College’s most impressive achievements since it embarked on its 16-year transformation under the leadership of Dr. Paul Phillips CBE in 2001.
Judges commended the College’s facilities for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), in particular the increased independence, the high retention rate of learners with SEND, the number of students with SEND who move on to meaningful destinations, and the impact that this has on the local community.
The judges noted that the level of investment in the College’s facilities for SEND would not be possible without the sustained period of growth seen by the College under the leadership of Dr Phillips.
Weston College is widely regarded as one of the Further Education sector’s greatest success stories. At the beginning of the 21st century, the College was in a poor financial position with a small curriculum and unremarkable outcomes for its students.
When Dr. Phillips was appointed Principal and Chief Executive, he began the long process of investment, staff development and restructuring to turn around the College’s fortunes. In just over 16 years, the College’s outlook has been completely reversed and is now one of the most respected in the country, being named both ‘College of the Year’ and ‘Overall Training Provider of the Year’ at the 2015 Times Educational Supplement Further Education Awards.
Dr. Phillips, said, “This award recognises the massive transition that has occurred at Weston College. In particular, it acknowledges the close attention that has been given to make sure that every learner in the College has the same level of teaching and support, and the same chances of successfully progressing towards their goals.
“When I think back to 2001, the most striking difference is the ethos that has grown within the College of putting the learner first and at the heart of what we do. At Weston College it does not matter who you are, your background, or what you study, the opportunity to access high-quality teaching and support, as well as incredible facilities, is the same.
“The ethos of ‘creating brighter futures’ is more than just a slogan, it is a mission statement that applies to all of the young people and adults that we teach.”
Jude Ferguson, Chair of Corporation, said, “I am delighted to see the College recognised with such a prestigious award, particularly in the field of inclusive learning.”
The Prizes are part of the honours system and are awarded every two years by The Queen on the Prime Minister’s advice. UK universities and colleges were invited in October 2016 to submit entries on any aspect of their work for assessment against the scheme’s criteria of excellence, innovation and practical benefit, to the institution itself and UK education, and to the UK economy and society and for public benefit in general.
The Trust, charged by the Palace and the Cabinet Office with the administration of the scheme since its inception in 1994, undertook a process of independent assessment leading to recommendations by the Trust’s Awards Council in September this year.
Sir Damon Buffini, Chairman of the Royal Anniversary Trust, said, “The focus of the Prizes on innovation and practical benefit to people and society is a great incentive to our universities and colleges to think critically about the direction of their work and its application and relevance in today’s world.”