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Barnsley College announced as finalist for two AoC awards

The Association of Colleges (AoC) has recognised Barnsley College as a finalist in two categories at its annual Beacon Awards – for the College’s outstanding commitment to the mental health of students, and its exceptional governance.

Now in its 29th year, the Beacon Awards recognise excellence and the country’s most innovative practice in Further Education institutions.

In confirming Barnsley College as a finalist in the NOCN Group Award for Mental Health and Wellbeing, the AoC notes the College as standing out for its wellness recovery action plans (WRAPs). WRAPs are bespoke solutions designed alongside the College’s Health and Wellbeing department, which help individual students understand triggers, warning signs and daily maintenance activities that affect their mental health.

Developed with charity MIND, the WRAP initiative was designed to ‘tackle a mental health crisis that was threatening to overwhelm support services in the local area’. WRAPs are one of a number of initiatives to support wellbeing in the College, which also include signposting to local services, access to online talking therapies through the SilverCloud platform, and forum discussion and journalling through Kooth.

“The college’s WRAP stands out because it can sit alongside existing and new therapeutic and medical interventions, removing the void of support often felt by young people waiting for clinical treatment,” said the AoC.

“The initiative’s plan is built around self-awareness, resilience, responsibility and management, incorporating self-help, the support of others and interventions such as social prescribing, counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy. In this way learners can develop a sustainable strategy which continues to support them as they progress beyond college.”

Barnsley College was also chosen as a finalist in the AoC Award for Excellence in Governance for the transparency and visibility of governors, ensuring they are ‘dynamic actors in the work and life of the college’ – with streamlined formal scrutiny meetings combined with informal ‘creative sessions providing an opportunity to focus on strategy and forward planning’.

Liam Garside, Head of Student Services at Barnsley College, said: “It is a fantastic achievement to not only have met the AoC Beacon standard for ‘The NOCN Group Award for Mental Health and Wellbeing’ and gained Commended status, but especially to be chosen as a finalist in the award.

“As a Further Education institution, we are seen to be sector-leading for the wellbeing services offered to our students. Over the past few years, we have seen a rise in referrals for mental health, but our experts in the Health and Wellbeing team and across the college work innovatively to implement interventions for students at risk.

“Because of the bespoke support we offer, we’re able to offer solutions to empower students in everything from daily wellness to recognising and responding to crisis situations.

“Our main goal is provide our young people with the skills to support and manage their mental wellbeing – not just while they are learning with us, but so that they have the knowledge and tools to support them in the future.”

Barnsley College Principal and Chief Executive, David Akeroyd: “The AoC Beacon Awards are renowned across the country and with good reason – they recognise colleges which represent the cream of the crop nationally in terms of innovation and best practice.

“We feel that this recognition is particularly special for Barnsley College as the two awards for which we are a finalist may seem to come from entirely separate places – the mental health of our students, and the governance of the College.

“But what both listings represent is our total focus on making the student experience the most rewarding, valuable and worthwhile it can be. We are committed to empowering our students to develop into resilient, engaged and compassionate adults.

“Ensuring that they have the correct tools to do so – and they are unimpeded and, indeed, supported by the College’s governance and strategy – remains a strong focus across the whole College.”

Mark White CBE DL, Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust, said: “The AoC Beacon Awards showcase exactly why colleges are so important to every community and why people value them.”

Last updated: 28th November 2023

Originally posted on: 22nd November 2023

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