The College of West Anglia

Parents and Carers FAQs

We know that helping your child make the decision about where to study after GCSEs can be difficult. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions from parents and carers of current students at the College of West Anglia, and our answers.

If you have any questions that aren’t answered here, please do not hesitate to call us on 01553 815271.

What does 'raising the participation age' mean?

The government increased the age to which all young people in England must continue in education or training to 18 years of age. This does not mean students have to stay in school or go to sixth form.

Once year 11 is completed students can choose:

- full-time education, at college, sixth form or home education
- an apprenticeship
- part-time education or training, if they are employed, self-employed or volunteering for at least 20 hours per week

How will my child get to college?

CWA works in conjunction with local county councils to operate various bus routes to and from each campus.

Learners aged 16-18 who are studying a full-time course may be eligible for subsidised transport through their county council. Eligibility will depend on which county council they need to apply to, which campus they will be studying at and which course they have chosen.

The college has limited parking at all campuses. Parking is by permit only; these are available from student services from the start of each academic year. The college also provides compounds for cyclists to secure their bikes at all three campuses.

More information on transport can be found here.

How much does it cost for my child to attend college?

If a learner is under 19 on 31st August, in the year they begin their programme, they will not have to pay a course fee; however, all full-time courses have a resource fee attached and there may also be additional fees for materials, kits and trips. Details of current resource fees for each course can be found here.

The college operates a Learner Support Fund, which can help eligible students with costs related to their course, including transport, books, equipment & accommodation.

Learners under 19 with a child of their own can also apply to the government’s Care to Learn fund for financial support with the costs of childcare.

How will I know how my child is getting on?

The college holds information evenings regularly during the academic year, where you will have a chance to talk to the course team and be kept up-to-date with progress.

All students have access to the college’s student portal, giving them immediate access to their personal development plan (PDP), attendance record, timetable and more.

Students have the ability to grant access to the portal to their parents, carers and employers.

Tutors also complete progress review reports during the year for each subject in the programme.

What support does the college provide my child?

CWA provides a comprehensive support system for all of our learners, including:
- course information and advice
- regular meetings with a member of their course team
- advice and information on progression opportunities, both in and outside college
- additional learning support, including specialist tutorials and equipment for dyslexia, sensory impairment or physical difficulties
- advice and information about financial assistance, free college meals, travel, accommodation, childcare, equipment and materials
- free counselling and student advisor service

More information can be found in our student services pages.

How many hours per week do learners attend college?

The normal college day starts at either 8.45am (King’s Lynn) or 9.00am (Wisbech and Cambridge) and most classes will end by 4.30pm. Most full-time students will be in college at least three days per week.

In order to succeed, learners are expected to maintain regular attendance at all of their classes, as per the college policies. Attendance is monitored and tutors will liaise directly with learners if there are issues. Our timetables are designed to allow time for personal study and, where possible, part-time jobs, which we know are important to young people. However, timetables are always subject to change and may alter during the academic year. We will always endeavour to inform learners as early as possible about changes.

Some courses (e.g. hospitality, beauty therapy) may require learners to attend college outside the normal college day, which is communicated to them prior to enrolment.

How does the college monitor my child's progress?

At CWA our learners’ progress is continually monitored through reviews, designed to motivate them to perform at the best of their ability by providing them with clear feedback on their performance.

There are three progress reviews during the academic year, in October, January and April, based on:
- Performance
An overall judgement by the tutor/course director, which is specified as ‘above target’, ‘on target’ or ‘below target’.
- Targets
Individually set targets, which can be set by any member of college staff, as well as by the learner themselves - these change frequently and are an up-to-date indicator of the current situation.
- Minimum Attainment Grade (MAG)
The grade which the college expects, as an absolute minimum, the learner will achieve. This is based on previous examination performance, in line with the most likely grade expected from students across the country with the same previous results.
- Aspirational target grade
The grade which tutors believe the learner can achieve, which is challenging but realistic.

Learners have access to their information and course resources through the college’s student portal and Learn, the college’s learning platform.

What is the difference between a vocational course, A-levels and apprenticeships?

The main difference between these courses is that A-levels are assessed through examinations with some providing coursework modules, whilst vocational courses are predominantly coursework based with an examined element, some practical assessments or work experience.

A full-time vocational course allows learners to prepare for a specific career, or higher education. They combine practical and academic study and have greater emphasis on assessment through assignments rather than exams.

Most learners studying A-levels study the equivalent of at least three subjects (although some study more), with most level 3 vocational courses counting as ‘triple’ subjects.

Studying a level 3 vocational course is the equivalent of studying up to 3 A-levels and both qualifications can give up to 360 UCAS points.

Research in 2013 by London Economics showed that graduates who had studied a vocational course were on par with their A-level-only peers in terms of the jobs they secured. In fact, more vocational course graduates were found to be working as managers or in associate professional roles, compared to A-level-only graduates.

Apprenticeships offer learners the chance to earn while they learn, gaining skills and qualifications through a structured programme of practical work and classroom study. They spend the majority of their time at work and attend college either on a day release or block basis.