Discover how Cambridge Regional College use a project-based approach to help those with learning difficulties overcome the struggle to secure work experience and gain job offers.

Cambridge Regional College, Huntingdon Campus, identified that young people with learning difficulties are rarely invited to job interviews or offered a job. As a way of tackling this issue, the college wanted to guide these learners down the entrepreneurial route, with a means of “making their own luck” instead.

The college decided to take a project-based approach, giving learners the opportunity to gain plenty of practical experience including applying for, interviewing for and undertaking work placement and a range of external accreditation. In order to support the planned approach, Cambridge Regional College needed a flexible qualification which was not overly prescriptive in terms of evidence requirements or lengthy lists of assessment criteria. This meant the college needed to move away from their existing awarding organisation.

When Alison Goold, who has 22 years of experience as a learning difficulties careers advisor followed by 10 years in teaching, took on the post of leading the curriculum for supported learning, she decided to switch awarding organisations. Alison had used Gateway Qualifications successfully in the past and the flexible approach had made a lasting impression. So much so that following a college merger, Gateway Qualifications Entry Level qualifications are still being delivered.


For a year, I ran with the other awarding organisation that had been decided by my predecessor. I found it very, very prescriptive and it didn't give me flexibility to do project-based learning. When there was an opportunity to move awarding organisations, I switched the courses to Gateway Qualifications' ones. I've now got individual learners on individual timetables, all with a certain amount of choice in what they're doing.

Alison Goold, Head of Supported Learning, Cambridge Regional College

Delivering an Entry Level qualification that supports project-based learning

Learners at Cambridge Regional College were enrolled onto Gateway Qualifications Entry Level 3 Certificate in Enterprise. Much of the associated learning revolved around the use of the college’s on-site campus shop, The Corner Shop. Learners apply for their desired role at The Corner Shop and interview for the job, giving them a chance to practise job application and interview skills. They then undertake work in the shop which is managed, run and stocked with goods created by the Entry Level learners; and all the time they are gathering evidence that can be included in their portfolio.

At the end of the qualification, learners reflect on what they learned, what went well and what they could have done better. This self-evaluation is also captured in their portfolio of evidence. Cambridge Regional College report that its an approach that suits both learners who love the practical project approach, and staff who are free to be creative in their teaching, learning and assessment practices.

With other AO's it can be very prescriptive and unless you hit that subsidiary criteria, you can't get learners to gather enough evidence to achieve the outcome. But with Gateway Qualifications - it's not easier because that would make it sound less valid which is not true, but everything can count as long as it's within those broader outcomes. It suits the way we like to run and actually a lot of people (parents, learners, local authorities) have commented on how flexible and personalised our programmes are.

Alison Goold, Head of Supported Learning, Cambridge Regional College

Progression rates from the course are very promising. The learners thrive on kinaesthetic learning, and the hands-on approach has opened many doors for them. As well as learners successfully progressing up through the Entry Levels and onto supported internships in retail, some learners have created their own businesses. One young lady who achieved a Gateway Qualifications Certificate in Enterprise (E3) now sells her own greetings cards at a monthly market.

Gateway Qualifications are proud to support the work the college is doing and to be able to help young people with learning difficulties become young entrepreneurs or enter employment.

If you are interested in running Entry Level qualifications or would like to discuss how our qualifications can support your delivery methods, call us on 01206 911 211 or complete the Enquiries Form.

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