Education Insights: Bradford College students hit the mark

Students applauded for “remarkable progress”

Bradford College has announced that all of its initial intake of advanced entry students from the Specsavers BTEC Level 4 Certificate in Optical Dispensing have been successful in all of their preliminary assessments.

Students who have already achieved the Level 4 BTEC Certificate are able to enter the Bradford College part-time Foundation Degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing in the second year, allowing them to potentially graduate in two years’ time.

Dean Dunning, programme leader for the FdSc Ophthalmic Dispensing, commented: “We are absolutely thrilled that all of our advanced entry students this year have done so well so far. Their progress has been nothing short of remarkable.

“Not only have they really had to hit-the-ground-running on starting this course in the second year, but they have also had to do it in the midst of a global pandemic, which has placed a real strain on their lives. But they have done so much more than pass all of their assessments so far, they have also achieved some fantastic marks along the way, with several distinction marks being awarded.

“Terrific” attitude towards learning

“The students attitude has been terrific throughout,” Dean continued. “They have slotted in to the college life straight away, both with the face-to-face and online sessions that we have been running this year. This is testimony to their work ethic, but also to the preparation that Specsavers have given them in training to be a dispensing optician.”

Dean added: “I also want to thank the rest of our current second-year students for making the new guys feel so welcome. They have really embraced the new students into the class, and they communicate with each other using their WhatsApp group, which is particularly important while many of the classes remain online.”

Ellie Bennett, who works at Specsavers in Hucknall, is one member of the first group of students to take the advanced entry onto the Bradford College Foundation Degree. She commented: “We have been given a great opportunity to start in year two, and I feel privileged to be able to do the course. The staff at Bradford College are great and will always help if you’re not sure on something. I don’t ever hesitate to get in touch with them if I’m struggling with any part of the course.”

Kirsteen Newman, accredited training manager at Specsavers, said: “Specsavers is delighted that Bradford College is now able to accept the BTEC Level 4 Certificate in Optical Dispensing as prior learning, allowing students direct entry into year two of the Ophthalmic Dispensing Foundation Degree – after completing their summer programme and passing preliminary qualifying exams.”

Preparing for the future

The BTEC Level 4 Certificate in Optical Dispensing is taken by 150 Specsavers employees each year. It’s aimed at optical assistants who are looking to progress their career by extending their knowledge of optics and ophthalmic lens theory.

“The fact that the BTEC Level 4 Certificate is now recognised by both ABDO College and Bradford College as prior learning, underscores the ability of this course to prepare students to be the dispensing opticians of the future,” Dean said.

Kirsteen continued: “The team at Bradford College have provided great support to our pilot group of students this year and I have no doubt that this support will extend to all students progressing through this pathway.”

Learning to adapt

This year, teaching at the college has been slightly different from previous years, with a combination of face-to-face studies alongside online sessions due to lockdown and travelling restrictions.

Robin Rohu, lecturer in Ophthalmic Dispensing at Bradford College, explained: “The success of the advanced entry intake has in part been due to the Ophthalmic Dispensing teams’ ability to adapt to teaching during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Practical modules were front-loaded at the beginning of the semester and colleagues worked together to enhance the productivity of delivery. The college made a significant investment into equipment to dramatically increase the volume of practical teaching, whilst ensuring that student and staff safety was prioritised.”

Ellie agreed that the combination method of delivery has worked well. She said: “At first it was hard as I had never done any virtual learning before, but once I had done it a few times, I enjoyed the remote learning. Because I live about two and a half hours each way from college, instead of spending the time travelling to and from College, I have been able to use the extra time to do more studying.

“However, the time which we have spent in college is very structured and well organised by the staff and I always felt safe. My overall experience has been very enjoyable because I have met new friends and we can keep in touch, even though we live so far away from each other,” Ellie concluded.

If you want to know more about studying Ophthalmic Dispensing at Bradford College, contact programme leader, Dean Dunning, by emailing