Record numbers of Access students are going to university – could you be next?


A record number of Access to HE learners made it into higher education in 2015, with an impressive 10% gaining entry to prestigious Russell Group universities.

According to a recent TES article, 25,480 students took an Access to Higher Education course and successfully entered higher education in 2014-15 – an increase of 10 percent from the previous year.

These encouraging statistics demonstrate how valuable Access courses are for people without qualifications, who want to enter undergraduate study.

Here at Fircroft College, we offer the hugely popular Access to Higher Education Diploma in Social Sciences and Humanities and have a pass rate of over 10% above the national average.

The course offers a diverse range of subjects including History, Literature, Sociology and Psychology and provides a firm foundation for university entrance in several subjects.

Here’s just a few of the benefits of studying the Access Diploma in Social Sciences and Humanities at Fircroft College:

  • Excellent one-to-one support including a progress coach
  • Modern teaching facilities, comprehensive ICT and a 24-hour library
  • College set in six acres of beautiful gardens
  • Residential and non-residential places available
  • Financial support and help with childcare available
  • Free meals and help with living costs

Every year, learners from all backgrounds, ethnicities and abilities study the Access Diploma in Social Sciences and Humanities and progress to university – including Russell Group institutions.

Sometimes, people can feel they are beyond help socially and in education terms. Nothing could be further from the truth when you read some of the inspiring stories from our past learners – many of whom came from very challenging backgrounds and went on to succeed at university and subsequent careers.

For more information on how the Access to Higher Education Diploma could change your life please click here.

Improve your people management skills with the ILM Level 3 Award in Leadership & Management



At Fircroft College we offer the ILM Level 3 Award in Leadership & Management qualification on a non-residential basis.

Getting the right mix of inspirational leadership and effective management skills and practices can have a significant impact on organisational performance in terms of profit, sales, growth and survival. 93% of employers see tangible increase in their managers’ capability after an ILM qualification.

The ILM Level 3 Award in Leadership & Management is ideal if you have management responsibilities but no formal training and want to develop your abilities further. It’s particularly suited to practicing team leaders seeking to move up to the next level of management, and managers who need to lead people through organisational change, budget cuts or other pressures. It has a particularly successful track record in training public sector and third sector employees.

This nationally recognised qualification consists of two taught sessions delivered on 9th May and 13th June at Fircroft College, together with online resource learning.

Benefits to you:

– Learn a range of key management skills

– Develop your leadership capabilities

– Motivate and engage teams 

– Understand what motivates a team

– Understand the financial implications of a workplace project

Benefits to your employer:

– Improved relationships and communications in teams

– Improved confidence and effectiveness of team leaders

– Measurable results transferred to your organisation

Here’s some feedback from one our recent ILM Level 3 Award in Leadership & Management students:

“My time at Fircroft College on the ILM course was invaluable to my professional development and helped enhance my management skills. Having recently been promoted to a more senior managerial position, I enrolled at Fircroft in order to learn new exciting leadership techniques and theories to assist me my new role. The tutors were incredibly engaging and were always prepared to go the extra mile. The learning experience was made easier easy due to the impressive levels of organisation and the well planned structure of the learning process. I have benefitted so much from achieving my ILM Award courtesy of Fircroft. I now feel confident that I am far better equipped to deal with all areas of my new job role and the experience has helped shape what type of manager I want to become” 

Matt Lloyd – former student.

To learn more about the ILM Level 3 Award in Leadership & Management at Fircroft, course cost and the entry requirements, please click here.


How the Access to Higher Education Diploma can transform lives and career prospects


The Access to Higher Education Diploma is much more than a stepping stone to university.

For many people, it’s a second chance at education and a second chance at life.

The Access to Higher Education Diploma is designed to help people academically and socially while providing a widely-recognised qualification for university entrance. University is still regarded as a very worthwhile choice, academically and financially.

A recent report suggests that graduates can earn up to £12,000 a year more than non-graduates, that’s the equivalent of more than £500,000 over an average working life*.

At a personal level, there are many examples of how the Access Diploma has transformed peoples’ lives.

One such example is Mark Riley.

Before enrolling onto the Access Diploma at Fircroft College, Mark had spent most of the previous 8 years in prison. He started using drugs and alcohol aged 11 and left school with no qualifications. He was a self-confessed ‘latchkey kid with only bad role models in his life.

Casual jobs came and went and Mark started leading a more chaotic lifestyle, sleeping at friends’ houses and taking more drugs. He was sliding down a slippery slope.

The tipping point came in 2012, when Mark considered suicide whilst in prison, but fortunately sought help from a support service which helped him end his drug habit.

After leaving prison and moving into supported housing, Mark heard about the Access Diploma from a friend who recommended he speak to Fircroft. This was the beginning of a new life for Mark.

“Starting the Access Diploma at Fircroft changed everything. It gave me self-belief, confidence and a sense of self-worth I’d never had before. It opened my eyes. I want other people who’ve been in my situation to know that it is possible to change”.

“I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved so far. I remember getting my first essay handed back to me after not being in a classroom for 20 years. I got a distinction. I’ve been offered a place at Lincoln Bishop Grosseteste University to do health and social care. I want to be a support worker and help people who’ve been in my situation. I’ve had so much support from other people, especially the tutors at Fircroft, It’s my turn to give something back.”

Mark won the Open College Network 2015 Access to Higher Education Learner Award given to ‘extraordinary individuals who are undertaking or have had inspirational learning journeys helping them to transform their lives.’

There are many others like Mark who’ve transformed their lives by studying the Access to Higher Education Diploma at Fircroft College. If you didn’t succeed at education first time around and would like another chance**, please visit this link or contact our friendly team on 0121 472 0116.


* Statistic taken from a report compiled by Adzuna who analysed 1,000,000 vacancies in June 2015 and concluded there is a widening pay gap between graduates and non-graduates, although overall the opportunities are becoming better for both.

** We strongly recommend that applicants for the Access to Higher Education Diploma undertake at least some of the Skills for Further Study programme. The programme specifically aims to develop the range of skills you’ll be expected to use on the Access course.

How you can oppose funding cuts and help secure Fircroft’s future.



Fircroft is facing proposed funding cuts of 25-40% which threatens its ability to help disadvantaged learners in the future.

In 1909 George Cadbury Jr. founded Fircroft College of Adult Education and established an institution that would transform the lives of thousands of people over the next 100 years.

The college was founded with a firm social justice mission, transforming the lives of thousands of disadvantaged and socially excluded adults across the UK.

Many of Fircroft’s learners have missed out on conventional education due to challenging personal and family circumstances – often through no fault of their own.

The college offers a wide range of courses and training from basic English and Maths right up to the Access to Higher Education Diploma which prepares learners for University entrance.

The educational offering is only part of what makes Fircroft such a valuable asset to disadvantaged people and society as a whole.

Its residential facility enables learners to immerse themselves in a positive learning and social environment which helps develop inter-personal skills, friendships and trust.

Despite the valuable and essential nature of Fircroft’s work, it’s facing potentially devastating cuts of 25-40% in funding.

These cuts would make it very difficult for the college to continue delivering education to some of the most vulnerable in society.

In 2014, Fircroft was invited to a Parliamentary reception to celebrate the contribution that ‘Specially Designated Institutions’ make to adult education.

The reception was attended by Baroness Gillian Shepherd, Labour peer Baroness Janet Whitaker and Skills Minister Nick Boles who said:

“These (Specially Designated Institutions) organisations deliver learning that has profound, life-changing impacts on the lives of individuals, families and communities, particularly those who are disadvantaged.”

There are hundreds of examples of people whose lives have been transformed by Fircroft College. Often, these learners go back into the community to help benefit the lives of many others.

One such example is Rob, who came from a background of drug and alcohol dependency as well as spells of living on the streets. After a number of courses at Fircroft, Rob progressed to university and subsequently gained a Masters. He’s now a professional counsellor helping people overcome problems like he experienced. He says of his time at Fircroft:

“The support I received was incredible. Fircroft taught me how to embrace education.”

If you think organisations like Fircroft should be sufficiently funded so that they can continue to help disadvantaged people, please take a few seconds to sign this petition.

If you’re a current or former Fircroft learner, there are additional ways you can support our campaign by visiting this page.

Thank you for reading and please share via social media.

How third sector training can equip you with skills for work and life


There’s no shortage of training provision for people employed in the private sector, but those working in the third sector are not so well accommodated for.

This is surprising given around 800,000 people are employed in the voluntary sector alone. Finding a suitable third sector training provider can equip you with the knowledge and skills to enter a wide range of careers.

At Fircroft College of Adult Education, we have a training facility dedicated to the third sector. Many of our trainers have worked in third sector organisations and pass on their real-world experience to students.

We offer a range of key skills courses covering all the essential skills required for third sector employment including:

Train the trainer – Specifically designed for the third sector, this course gives you new skills to train people within your organisation. The two-part course leads to Open College Network accreditation at Levels 2 & 3.

Bid writing – A broad introduction to basic fundraising techniques, concentrating on identifying the different sources of funds and how to access them.

Public speaking and presentation skills – This very popular two-part course equips you with the skills to deliver presentations confidently, using a range of media, including PowerPoint. Few people relish the thought of speaking in front of large groups of people, so this course teaches you composure and communication techniques.

We also offer courses in customer services, communications and diversity.

Our experience in the third sector has led us to develop a range of tailored training courses including ‘Residents in Action’, ‘Peer Mentoring’ and ‘Lay Assessors’.

After completing one or more key skills courses, many of our students progress to employment within the third sector. One such former student is Jeanette Siret, who set up her own community interest company. Jeanette explains how she did this in the video below.

Our third sector training programmes are designed to fit the specific needs of your organisation which we feel works more effectively than ‘off the shelf’ courses.

If you’re interested in learning more about our third sector training please visit our website.


Help us to secure the future of Fircroft College

Fircroft College is an educational success story that has helped, supported and transformed the lives of many thousands of adults during its 106 year history.

As part of the government’s current spending review, the college is facing potential funding cuts of between 25% and 40%. Such a huge cut in funding would have a devastating impact on the services we work hard to provide to our learners. It would also place the entire future of this inspirational college at risk.

Learn how you can help us secure the future of our wonderful college by visiting our website.


Your adult education learning journey starts here …


Time is running out to enrol on to one of our adult education courses which start throughout September.

Fircroft College of Adult Education has over 150 courses to choose from – many of which are free for eligible learners.

By choosing Fircroft, you will be following in the footsteps of thousands of people who have transformed their personal and career prospects.

And what’s more, all of our courses have a residential option which immerses you in a friendly and supportive environment amongst like-minded learners.

Here’s just a few of our adult education courses starting in September:

Gateway to Learning – the ideal starting point for adults returning to education, this course will help you plan your learning and career journey.

– Functional Skills for Maths – helping you to build your practical maths skills and apply them to everyday life.

Functional Skills for English – giving you the essential English skills you need for life, work end education.

Functional Skills for ICT – ideal if you have never used a computer before, this course will introduce you to ICT and help you feel confident about your skills.

Preparing for Work – this programme of courses is designed to equip you with the advice, knowledge and skills to help you find paid or volunteering work.

Key Skills at Work – a range of short courses designed to support those either currently working/volunteering in the voluntary, community and public sectors.

All of our class sizes are small, so that learning is as personalised and interactive as possible with a high proportion of staff to learners. Many of our courses are just 2 to 3 days in length and pack  lot of learning into a short time frame.

At Fircroft we have many inspirational stories of students who have overcome adversity and gone on to achieve great things in their career and personal lives.

A recent example is Bawinder Kaur who came to Fircroft in 2014. Bwinder had been through some very difficult times in previous years which resulted in a relationship breakdown and a spell in prison. 

After her support workers told her about Fircroft, Bawinder enrolled on the Personal and Social Development programme of courses with a view to improving her confidence. She later enrolled on the Stepping Stones programme aimed at people wanting to move into support work.

Balwinder is now volunteering at Anawim Women’s Centre with a plan in place to become self-employed.

She is one of may former Fircroft students who have transformed their personal lives and career prospects.

To learn how you can achieve your learning and employment goals, please visit or call one of our friendly team on 0121 472 0116.

How to prepare for the Access to Higher Education Diploma


‘Skills for Further Study’ courses offer the ideal platform to progress to the Access to Higher Education Diploma.

Life, work and study skills are something we all need to get on in life.

For some people, these skills are developed at an early age, through school and the conventional education system. For others, acquiring these skills is not so straightforward for a variety of reasons.

Where this is the case, many people approach their local adult education college to ‘catch-up’ on some of their missed education.

Most adult education colleges offer courses from entry-level stage, right through to pre-degree level, such as the Access to Higher Education Diploma.

To qualify for the Access to Higher Education Diploma, many students opt to study Level 2 courses such as those offered by the Skills for Further Study programme at Fircroft College of Adult Education.

Skills for Further Study courses provide you with the skills and knowledge required for the Access Diploma. They use a variety of learning materials relevant to each subject, making the experience interactive and enjoyable.

The subjects you can study include:

– Speaking and listening skills

– Introduction to Literature

– Introduction to History

– Introduction to Social Science

– Essay writing skills 

Once you have successfully completed some or all of the Skills for Further Study courses, you should be much better prepared to study the Access to Higher Education Diploma.

At Fircroft College of Adult Education, we have many examples of students who have worked their way up from entry-level courses to the Access Diploma and then on to university.

One inspiring example is Shafiq Ur-Rehman. Shafiq spent a long period of time in unfulfilling jobs and decided to undertake a series of Level 1 and 2 courses at Fircroft to improve his career prospects.

He then took the next step and successfully completed the Access Diploma at Fircroft as a residential student. This enabled Shafiq to progress to undergraduate study where he studied Law at the University of Gloucestershire. You can read more about Shafiq’s inspiring story and many others like his here.

Fircroft welcomes people of all ages and backgrounds who want to improve their knowledge and skills for learning and employment.

To find out more about how we can help you develop your skills in a supportive environment and prepare you for the Access to Higher Education Diploma, please contact us on 0121 472 0116 or visit this page.

How work skills courses can put you on the fast track to employment…


Work skills courses can prepare you for a wide variety of paid and voluntary employment roles.

The workplace can be a challenging but very rewarding environment.

Considering many of us will spend a third of our lives at work, it’s crucial that we’re equipped with the skills and knowledge to make it a fulfilling experience.

If you’re aiming to enter the world of work for the first time (voluntary or paid), or returning to work after some time out, we’ve compiled some tips to help you on your way.

1) Match your passion to the position

It sounds obvious, but whether you’re starting work for the first time or having a career change, you need to think about where your interests and passions lie. These may be helping people, selling, voluntary work or animal welfare for example. If you can match your interests and passions to a career, then you’re likely to have a much more rewarding experience. Of course, many of us do not have this luxury and have to look for what’s available, whether we’re passionate about it or not. Whatever your situation and career goals, the majority of people will benefit from attending work skills courses before entering the workplace.

2) Communicate to accelerate

Good communication skills are one of the main attributes employers look for in an applicant. The first place these will be tested is at an interview and employers take first impressions seriously when it comes to recruiting. If you’ve never worked before or are returning to work, you should consider attending a communication skills course. This will help you with assertiveness, meeting and presentation skills and how to deal with differences of opinion.

3) Be a problem solver

As with any area of life, the workplace sometimes presents challenges and problems. These issues need not become entrenched if you have the right problem solving skills. Think about how you deal with problems outside of work; do they make you feel overwhelmed for long periods or are you quick to nip them in the bud? You may be a good problem solver at home but you may benefit from more knowledge of problem solving in the workplace. If so, you may want to consider  a work skills course that covers problem solving and conflict-resolution.

4) Make your CV work harder

A CV should contain much more than just a dry list of personal and professional details. It’s your first opportunity to attract the attention of an employer and leave them with a favourable impression. Your opening statement should ‘sell’ your personal and professional qualities. If haven’t worked before, focus on voluntary work or leisure pursuits where you’ve demonstrated leadership and team work. If you need help on how best to put together your CV, consider a CV writing course.

5) The interview

The prospect of an interview can make many of us feel anxious, but you can turn an interview into a very positive and even enjoyable experience! The key, as always, is preparation! There are a few obvious questions you need to prepare for e.g.

  • ‘Why do you want to work here’?
  • ‘What makes you think you’re suitable for this role’?
  • ‘What are your strengths’?

As is often the case, practice makes perfect. An interviewing with confidence course will help to ensure you’re well prepared for anything an interviewer may throw at you.

If you would like to know more about our work skills courses please contact Fircroft College on 0121 472 0116 or read about them.


Access to Higher Education Diploma – making the journey to University affordable and fun!


People of all age groups and backgrounds study the Access to Higher Education Diploma at Fircroft College.

The Access to Higher Education Diploma provides an affordable, alternative route to university for people without formal qualifications.

Many would-be students think that the only way into university is via A-Levels, or vocational equivalents such as BTEC and NVQ.

Other people rule out university because they think they lack the academic ability, social skills or may feel they’re too old.

The Access to Higher Education Diploma banishes these myths, enabling people of all ages and backgrounds to study a nationally recognised pre-university qualification.

Each year at Fircroft, the access course brings together a wonderfully diverse group of people from across the UK. Every student has a unique story to tell, from those who’ve overcome personal challenges to older people who want to keep learning throughout retirement.

Studying the access diploma costs less than you may think, as there’s generally more financial assistance available than traditional pre-university qualifications.

Tuition fees are free if you’re aged between 19 and 23 and don’t have a full BTEC or NVQ Level 3 qualification. You may also be eligible for a living allowance, childcare provision and travel costs.

Other financial benefits include:

– All students receive help with living costs regardless of age.

– Residential students receive free meals and an additional living allowance.

– Non-residential students receive a free lunch and help towards childcare costs.

For full details of financial assistance available, please take a look at the Fircroft website.

Apart from a fulfilling learning experience, all students enjoy a varied range of social, leisure and sporting activities at Fircroft. These extra-curricular activities complement the learning experience, by helping students to unwind, get to know each other and reflect on the day’s study.

At the end of the Access course, you’ll have earned a qualification recognised by all UK universities, including the prestigious ‘red-brick’ institutions.

In less than 9 months, the Access to Higher Education Diploma can transform your education and career prospects by preparing you for undergraduate study and beyond.

To learn more about how our Access to Higher Education Diploma can help you gain a university place, please contact one of our friendly team on 0121 472 0116 or visit the access section of our website.



The ILM Award in Leadership and Management – the road to successfully managing people needn’t be ‘long and winding’.


At Fircroft College you can study ILM Levels 3, 4 and 5 at our Birmingham training centre or at a location to suit you.

The ILM Award in Leadership and Management enables professionals from all sectors to become effective leaders and managers.

Most managers would agree that the key to maintaining a successful organisation is keeping its people well trained and motivated (as well as keeping customers and stakeholders happy of course).

However, planning and executing the most effective training programme for individual roles requires careful consideration, whether it’s performed in-house or externally.

There’s a wealth of training and development resources available for all disciplines, but choosing the right one can be a confusing and time-consuming affair, particularly for inexperienced managers.

Sourcing suitable management training provides staff with the skills to lead and manage their team from the outset.

Many professionals continually develop their management skills with the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM).

The ILM offers the widest range of leadership and management qualifications and accredited training in the UK.

At Fircroft College, we have been successfully delivering the ILM Award in Leadership & Management at Level 3 for several years. Building on this success, we now offer Levels 4 and 5 as non-residential courses.

These qualifications provide the natural next steps for managers to broaden their skill-set and prepare themselves for a more senior management role. The awards are relevant to every sector, though Fircroft has particular experience in voluntary sector training.

ILM Levels 3 and 4 helps new and aspiring managers to get to grips with leadership and management and equips them with the skills to lead effectively at this level.

ILM Level 5 is targeted at practising middle managers preparing for senior management responsibilities up to Board level.

As well as offering ILM qualifications, Fircroft provides tailored management training courses to suit the needs of your organisation and your people. We run programmes from our training centre in south Birmingham or we can deliver courses at a location to suit you. We also offer one-to-one coaching to develop your management skills or general effectiveness at work.

To learn more about the ILM qualifications and the bespoke management training we offer, please visit our website or call one of our friendly team on 0121 472 0116.

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