Back in February, Weston College won two prestigious TES FE Awards, claiming the college of the year and overall FE provider of the year titles.
The honours represent an extremely credible endorsement of the ethos and approach that we have spent some 15 years embedding throughout Weston College: putting the learner first and foremost in everything that we do.
I had hoped and believed that we had been getting things right, in terms of our increasingly impressive outcomes for learners, and the growing diversity of our provision. But there’s nothing quite as powerful as endorsement from outside the organisation, particularly from well-respected establishments whose award-winners are chosen by panels of distinguished judges – many of them experts in the education sector.
I believed that we had a good chance of winning an award. I knew that we faced strong and worthy competition, but I also knew how hard everyone associated with Weston College has worked, over many years, on a remarkable transformation – Weston today is unrecognisable compared with the college at the turn of the century.
Our journey has involved an institution that was poorly regarded, which was in bad financial health and that was providing a sub-par education, reinventing itself as a vibrant college. Hot on the heels of earning Ofsted’s top rating of outstanding, we won the two TES FE Awards, and I can’t begin to describe the immense pride that I felt when I stepped on to the stage to receive them. To hear that the judges unanimously felt that Weston College stood out from the crowd, despite very strong competition, was extremely satisfying.
The endorsement and national recognition that the awards represent reassure us that we have been moving in the right direction, and, despite the many difficulties facing the education sector, they give us the confidence to build on the firm foundations we have laid.
Our college winning these awards represents the beginning, not the end, of a journey, and gives us the courage to continue. Our aim is to “create brighter futures” for our learners, and we intend to do that by creating a brighter future for the whole of the Weston College Group.
Maintaining a position at the top of the sector requires continuing hard work and dedication – it’s a challenge we are equipped to meet head-on.
FE is on a bumpy ride at the moment and government agendas around change in the sector are extremely challenging. Earning national recognition for the work that we have done is a success we can all be proud of.
Paul Phillips is principal of Weston College