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Case Study: Supporting York College to transition to Skills and Education Group Access

19 November 2020

In June 2018, York College decided to transfer their Access to Higher Education provision from another Access Validating Agency (AVA) to Certa Access. York College offer a number of different Access to HE Diplomas and have a large number of students. The College also has a fantastic track record for the quality of the Access to HE provision, noted by their previous AVA in moderation reports and also recognised by the quality of offers made to York College students by Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).


Given the size and quality of the provision, it was key for the College that the transition was managed well to ensure continued success.


Once the decision was made to move, York College and Certa Access agreed that three sessions would take place with the entire College Access to HE team and representatives from Certa Access. These sessions were delivered within the College, allowing the team to be prepared for the move to Certa Access and allowing Certa Access to be assured that everything was in place ahead of delivery.


In late 2018, the first of three sessions took place at the College, focusing on curriculum planning. During this session, course teams looked through all of the Diploma specifications and unit specifications to agree on the programme they would like to deliver in their subject area. Four members of Certa Access staff attended to offer advice and to ensure all units (including archived historical units) were available for consideration. By the end of this session, course teams had identified the units they planned to deliver and also identified ‘gaps’ within the Certa Access provision, where they would like to develop new units for inclusion in the Diplomas.


In early 2019, a second session was held at the College, attended by Course teams and Certa Access staff including External Moderators. During this session, College staff looked in detail at the units and suggested amendments (where necessary) and began the process of writing new units where ‘gaps’ had been identified in the Certa Access provision. The Certa Access External Moderators that attended this session were able to advise course teams to ensure the units were of a standard that was likely to be approved by a validation panel. Following this, a validation panel took place at Certa House in March 2019, which considered the proposed amendments to existing units and also validated new units for inclusion in the Diplomas.


A third and final session was held at York College in April 2019. During this session, the course teams began the process of writing their assessment plans for the units they would be delivering. This session was attended by key Certa Access staff, including External Moderators. This session ensured that the assessments were written in line with the expectations of the Moderators. Following this session, all assessments were put through an internal approval process in the College.


Before the end of the academic year, the College had all of their assessments in place for their move to Certa.


York College began delivery of Certa Access to HE provision in September 2019. Following their first year of delivery, they have been rated as a ‘green risk’ Centre, which is the lowest level of risk afforded to a Centre by Certa Access. The success of the transition can be attributed to the early and well-managed planning on the College’s part through the year running up to the change of AVAs. Certa Access was pleased to support the College through this process and would be pleased to support other Access to HE Providers through the process of moving from one AVA to another.


York College's Perspective


From the college perspective it was a seamless transition; we were fortunate to be given time by our Senior Leadership Team to prepare for the transfer. As Access at subject level has no official resources, it was important to be given time to prepare. The team needed to have time to identify how the Diploma would look, understand the units they had chosen, and write the assignment briefs.


We were then able to complete our internal moderation process before the year started which meant that we were ready when the academic year began - during the academic year, there is very little time to spare.


The meetings with the Certa Access team helped our teaching teams produce Diplomas which were fit for purpose, as well as helping to develop them as a cross-college team. Any subject areas which we felt had not been covered in the existing curriculum could be integrated as they were given the time, resources and the help to amend existing units or write new ones.


Once the year started in September 2019, we were confident in our delivery and had an initial meeting with our appointed moderators to cover any assessment methods which we were unclear with. The moderators worked with us to ensure that the students who had started their Diplomas when we were with our previous AVA were not disadvantaged.


We had our first moderation visit in January when the External Moderators visited the college and met the staff and students. This went well and we coped with the Covid lockdown remarkably well with the support of Certa Access.