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Questions raised over ‘large number’ of students travelling from Gwent to Hereford College

07 Dec 2023 3 minute read
Image: Hereford Sixth Form College

Concerns have been raised at the number of students travelling from a Gwent borough to study in Hereford despite numbers falling recently.

In 2019 the number of students heading to Hereford College to continue their studies after finishing their schooling aged 16 in Torfaen was 116. But the latest figures, for those starting their studies in September 2023, show that has reduced to 81.

One sixth form remaining in county

The numbers were produced at Torfaen Borough Council’s December 5 meeting after Blaenavon councillor Janet Jones raised concern at what she said she had been told is “the large number of Torfaen students who are opting to take their post-16 higher education studies at Hereford College.”

The independent councillor asked: “Is this because we have cut our sixth forms at our secondary schools, or because of the lack of suitable courses at Coleg Gwent, or because of poor tutoring? It really looks that we are failing our students.”

But Cllr Richard Clark, the cabinet member responsible for education, said the figures didn’t support that – and he also criticised the “poor phrasing” of the question. He said describing tutors as “poor” in public didn’t reflect well on staff at Coleg Gwent’s Torfaen Learning Zone, in Cwmbran.

He said the figures for this year are unverified but they are also a reduction on last year’s figure which was 89.

He said that contrasted with 427 students who went on to the Torfaen Learning Zone and 228 who study at other Coleg Gwent campuses. The only sixth form remaining in Torfaen is at Ysgol Gymraeg Gwynllyw, in Pontypool, as it provides Welsh medium education, and 54 students are continuing their studies there.

Poor wording

The Labour member for Croesyceiliog said councillors had taken the decision to close sixth forms, and move to a tertiary model, due to a “disparity” with schools in Cwmbran having sixth forms while most in the Pontypool area didn’t.

He said the council isn’t aware of a “lack of suitable courses” or of any evidence of “poor quality teaching” leading to students travelling to Hereford.

“Results at the Torfaen Learning Zone for the last academic year certainly show a quality,” said Cllr Clark who also added colleges are subject to the individual choices of students. “To be fair to Hereford they are very much in our schools pulling people in, they are businesses at the end of the day, and want bums on seats, not that I’m calling kids ‘bums on seats’ but you know what I mean.”

Cllr Jones said her question wasn’t intended as a reflection on tutors “just poor wording for which I apologise.”

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7 months ago

Torfaen had one of the best FE colleges in Cymru at Pontypool College. Pontypool College consistently had some of the best A level results in the country. Then came a merger with other colleges in Gwent. Which led to the troubled Coleg Gwent being created – the rest is history.

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