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Open College Network West Midlands Centres: Lifetime learning for all

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Access to HE Annual Round up of 2019-2020

Thursday, 10 September 2020


In this issue:

  • Another Successful Year 
  • Development Overview 
  • Review of the Access to HE Grade Scheme Review 
  • Staff Developments 
  • The Brian May Access to HE Learner Awards 
  • Save the Dates! 
  • Getting in touch with us

Another Successful Year! 

We normally start our annual bulletin with a focus on the fantastic registrations and achievements for the year but it seems more fitting this year to start with an acknowledgement of what we have experienced in the latter part of the academic year. When we all returned after the Christmas break with many plans for the term ahead nobody could have envisaged what was about to happen and what we all were going to be facing. The escalation of COVID-19 required a speedy yet rigorous response from Centres to ensure that learners could continue to engage with their learning, achieve their Access to HE Diploma and progress with their plans for the future. From asking you on 16th March what your contingency plans were to when they had to be implemented following closures on the 20th March, it was clear that you all had the learners at the heart of your actions and were embracing and supporting the changes in delivery and circumstances which some of your learners were facing. As a result, the 3958 learners who were registered on Open College Network West Midlands Access to Higher Education Diplomas to complete either a one year or two-year study programme have been supported extremely well. Sadly, we are aware that some staff and learners across the Centres have been impacted by COVID-19 and have lost family and friends. We would like to offer our sincere condolences and sympathy to those affected. 
Despite this being an extraordinary and challenging year, we have all adopted the new framework implemented for this situation and worked in very different ways to ensure successful outcomes. As a result, over 2400 Diplomas were awarded at the Extraordinary Awards Board (EAB) with more completing and achieving the Diploma following this. Open College Network West Midlands offer their congratulations to all learners and wish them the very best for the future. We were proud to support these learners as they took the next step in achieving their potential and goals. Yes, it has been an extraordinary year, but it most certainly has also been a successful one! 
In 2019-20 the Access to Higher Education Diploma has been delivered in 45 of our approved Centres. 
  • 29 Providers delivered their provision solely through face to face contact (traditional learning). These Providers were located across the Midlands, North West and South of England and consisted of 23 Further Education Colleges (FECs), 2 Local Authority Provider, 1 Sixth Form Centre, 1 University Centre and 2 Training Providers. 
  • 12 Providers delivered Diplomas fully online using our Pearl platform which consisted of 7 FE Colleges and 5 Training Providers. These were recruiting their learners from across the country. 
  • 3 Providers delivering Diplomas either through traditional face to face contact or fully online learning. 
  • 1 Provider delivered their Access to Higher Education Diploma provision through a combination of traditional, online and blended learning. 

Development Overview 

New Access to HE Diploma (Medicine) 
Following a very busy year in 2018-19 with a total of 15 Access to HE Diplomas being revalidated, the focus this year was on the development of the new Access to HE Diploma (Medicine) to accommodate the new subject descriptor for Medicine. This had been developed by QAA in partnership with AVAs, Centres, Medical Schools and the Medical School Council. Avalidation panel on 25th March approved the new Diploma and this will be active from 1 st August 2020. Dudley College will be piloting the new Diploma and subject descriptor from September 2020. This means that our current Access to HE Diploma (Medicine and Health Care Professions) will only be permitted to run for one more academic year. Therefore, last date for registrations for this Diploma will be 31st July 2021. 
Our thanks go to Dudley College and NSCG Stafford for their contributions to the development of the Diploma structure, and to individuals who attended the panel as subject specialists or HEI representatives namely Dr Gordon Dent, Chris Perry, Laura Walker and Jay Patel. At such a time when the country and indeed the whole world continues to rely heavily on frontline staff within its healthcare system, Open College Network West Midlands could not be prouder in offering this new Diploma for individuals who wish to pursue a career in medicine. As they desire to make a difference to the lives of others, we in turn desire to be able to make a difference in their lives and welcome the opportunity for this Diploma to be part of our provision. 

Review of the Access to HE Grade Scheme 

Proposals were made earlier in 2019-20 regarding how the Grade Scheme would be amended. These plans have now been removed and the CEOs from each AVA will meet in October to consider the next step and way forward. As always, we will update you when further information is received and encourage you to participate in any consultations.
Developing and Extending the Use of Electronic Resources 
Before COVID-19 we discussed the increased use of software to support remote sampling for external moderation. Supported by our lead moderator for Computing and ICT Jonathan Westlake, we were able to recommend examples of software such as Google Drive, Dropbox and One Drive and we did see some of these being used later in the year when requesting samples of estimated units for external moderation. To add to these recommendations, we have utilised the use of WeTransfer too. Please share any other examples of software or platforms that you have used. 
If you are considering increasing the use of online or blended delivery in your programmes, please remember that we do have this provision though Pearl. 15 Centres currently using Pearl to deliver fully online or as part of a blended programme. For more information about all of our online diplomas on Pearl and the benefits of on-line study for your college or training organisation, please visit our website. We are looking to expand our on-line Access offer during 2020-2021. Further updates about this will follow. 
If you would like a demonstration of how Pearl can be used, please contact Pam Stanway at

Staff Developments 

At Open College Network West Midlands, the Access to HE team work with different teams within the organisation to ensure that the service and qualifications we offer are first class. We would like to introduce you to Jas who has recently joined the organisation this year as our Marketing and Communications Officer. We will be working closely with Jas to promote Access to HE across social media platforms, particularly Twitter. If you don’t already follow us on Twitter please do so via @OpenCollNet
Jaswinder Jandu – Marketing and Communications Officer. 
Jas joined Open College Network West Midlands in July and is responsible for the planning, implementation, and evaluation of the organisations marketing activity. Jas has a background in education and skills development; having marketed the award-winning Local Enterprise Partnership flagship project, the Black Country Skills Factory, to high value manufacturing companies in the area. 
Jas has previously worked at the University of Birmingham as Marketing and Recruitment Officer, developed her marketing career working for the University of Wolverhampton Students’ Union as well as working for various departments of the University itself, including the Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre. 
She has a BA (Hons) Business degree from the University of Wolverhampton and completed her CIM Professional Diploma in Marketing with the University and Dudley College.
Au Revoir! 
As we write this year’s bulletin, we are preparing to say goodbye to our CEO, Chris Assheton. Chris has been with the company for 20 years and in the role of CEO for the last 15 years. Prior to working for the company Chris taught and moderated Access to HE courses. Her passion and support for Access to HE has been infectious and appreciated, whether it has been through chairing our validation panels, attending Final Award Boards, or speaking at our events. Her door has always been open, and it has been an honour to work with her. We would like to thank Chris for all her support and contributions to the Access to HE provision at Open College Network West Midlands and wish her well with her retirement. 
As we say goodbye to Chris, we also welcome Kevern Kerswell as our new CEO. Kevern was previously CEO of Agored Cymru and brings with him a wealth of experience in the awarding and education sector including Access to HE. Read more here.





The Brian May Access to HE Learner Awards 

Despite the restrictions faced due to lockdown we did not want to miss an opportunity to celebrate the success of our Brian May Access to HE Learner Award winners. On June 3rd, a ceremony took place virtually via Zoom. This year eight learners were awarded a prize of £600 for outstanding achievement or commitment to study. It was lovely to meet with some of the winners and their tutors to congratulate them on their award and to hear from some of them about their inspirational experiences and future plans. The winners this year were:
Outstanding Achievement: 
  • Charlie McCall - Cheshire College South and West (Ellesmere Port) 
  • Priya Gurung - NSCG Stafford 
  • Veronica Ugorji - University College Birmingham 
Outstanding Commitment to Study: 
  • Daisy Cunningham - Cheshire College South and West (Ellesmere Port) 
  • Emma Thompson - University College Birmingham 
  • Heather Hughes - NSCG Stafford 
  • Olivia Doughty - Cheshire College South and West (Ellesmere Port) 
  • Yasmin Wakefield - Cheshire College South and West (Crewe) 
We wish them all the very best with their future plans.

Save the Dates! 

The AVA have planned events across the year for Coordinators or tutors to attend. These provide opportunities to update knowledge and understanding of the Access to HE Diploma and to network with other Access to HE Centres. 
After the successful uses of Zoom with the last forum before lockdown and the support clinics during the implementation of the extraordinary framework, we will continue to use Zoom for the Coordinator Forums and Training. We will also only hold one forum rather than the three as Zoom allows us to all come together. 
The Coordinator Forums will take place on the following dates: 
  • 22nd September 2020 
  • 27th January 2021 
Forums provide an excellent opportunity to receive updates from the AVA, contribute to discussions of key issues and share good practice with other Centres. 
All forums commence at 13.30.
The AVAs Standardisation Sessions will take place remotely this year in April with activities available online to be completed within a set period of time. 
Standardisation assists with further ensuring consistency of assessment judgements between all Centres and provides opportunities for assessors to review the assessments standards applied and view examples of good practice. More details to follow! 

Getting in contact with us 

Please may we encourage you to email any Access-related enquiries to – this email address is monitored by several people, so you will always get a response. Alternatively, please phone the Open College Network West Midlands office on 01902 624230. 
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