REGIONAL AM Suzy Davies has visited Bridgend College to congratulate staff and students on achieving a third Beacon Award in just four years.

These awards are given for excellence in teaching and learning.

Mrs Davies, who is a Welsh Conservative Regional AM, met College principal Nick PIrotte and deputy Rob Evans to hear that the college was now the most successful in Wales. It has had two inspection reports from Estyn classified as excellent and the students are rated the most satisfied in Wales.

Mrs Davies was given a tour of several departments including IT where she was introduced by lecturer Claire George to the college’s robot called Si who has been programmed to conduct an English lesson as well as helping with groups of students including those with autism.

Mrs Davies also visited the mechanical engineering department where apprentices were working on computer controlled cutting machinery. Here she chatted to lecturer Michael Donnelly and student Jake Birch, aged 17, of Nantyffyllon who is a Tata apprentice.

Mr Davies said: “I was very impressed with the way in which the College has bounced back from the horrendous cuts in funding it suffered only a few years ago when it lost 150 members of staff.

“But today, the college is blazing a trail for other colleges in Wales to follow – despite the fact that more than 80 per cent of its students enter the college at age 16 with the reading and numeracy skills of 11 year olds. This is a truly shocking statistic which must reflect on what’s happening in local schools and needs to be investigated.

“This means that the college is left to pick up the pieces by employing a team of teachers specifically to boost the reading, writing and maths skills of students before they can benefit from the courses they are studying.

“The college also has half of its students living in some of the most deprived communities in South Wales. So their success in overcoming these considerable handicaps is all the more amazing and a testimony to the hard work and commitment of both students and staff alike. I commend them.”