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News and reviews

News, reviews and more

Welcome to the page where we shine a light on our service and keep you updated with news, visits and events 

You'll find good news stories, articles from events we have attended, learner case studies, testimonials and lots more below. 

That's not all. We have also included links to our Study Programme and Apprenticeship service news, reviews and success stories.

Make sure to check them out too. 


Visit our Apprenticeships page for the latest news, reviews, quotes and success stories.

Study Programme

Visit our Study Programme page for the latest news, reviews, quotes and success stories.


On Thursday 1st February, Sam (L&S Mentor & Careers Adviser) and Laura (L&S Tutor) hosted a pop-up stall at Morrisons, North Road to promote community engagement and upskilling with residents of the North Road area. Interest was high with enquiries about various community and CPD courses. Sam is now in regular contact with the Morrisons North Road Community Champion, Claire, and will be hosting further stalls there on a regular basis in the future. In addition to this, our pop-up work with local supermarkets is growing, and Sam will also be hosting a stall at ASDA, Whinbush Way at the end of February with a view to this also becoming a regular slot if successful.

National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) 2024

The week of the 5th - 11th February brings together everyone passionate about apprenticeships to celebrate the value, benefit and opportunity that they bring.

The theme for National Apprenticeship Week 2024 is “Skills for Life”. We encourage everyone to consider how apprenticeships can help individuals to develop the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career, and employers to develop a workforce with future ready skills. 

Click here for more information on Darlington Learning & Skills apprenticeship offer

National Careers Week, 4th - 11th March 2024

We were out and about at local fairs, schools and colleges answering your questions about careers, jobs and your future.

Why not take the Skills Assessment [external link] on the National Careers Service website to find out what type of job categories and particular job roles may suit you?

Finalists and Winner, with Graham Curry (Apprenticeship Manager) and Tammy Firth (Adule Education Manager)

Finalists and Winner, with Graham Curry (Apprenticeship Manager) and Tammy Firth (Adule Education Manager)

Stronger Community Awards 2023

Learning & Skills occupied all three finalist positions in the Vocational Excellence category at the Stronger Communities Awards 2023 held in November. Congratulations to finalists, Jamellia Greenhough-Lee, Sarah Mortley, and eventual winner AnnMarie Bainbridge on their achievements. The event was a great evening and a massive success for Learning & Skills to showcase these achievements, building on our success from previous years.

Level 3 Early Years Educator

Congratulations to Anne Marie Bainbridge who has successfully completed her Level 3 Early Years Educator Course with us, funded by the Tees Valley Combined Authority. Anne Marie has gained employment within this sector and is looking forward to the challenges her new life brings.

Anne Marie said, “Thank you to my tutor Laura for all your support and encouragement during my educational journey in achieving my diploma. I couldn’t be prouder and you can do anything if you put your mind and effort to it, you just have to want to do it and take the jump. I’m an older learner so of course it can be scary, but not only did I complete my diploma, I also obtained my Certificate in Autism alongside it which is a massive benefit to my new role as an Early Years Educator 💖💙

Stronger Community Awards 

Learning & Skills has had three learners nominated for the Stronger Community Awards 2023 and all three have made the final. The learners through to the final are from our Apprenticeship and Adult Diploma areas.

Graham Curry, Apprenticeship Manager, said, "This is excellent news for all involved and the third year in a row that Learning & Skills have had a finalist at the awards. Good luck to everyone."

Early Years Educator Success for Sarah

Sarah has become the first level 3 funded learner to complete the L3 Diploma in Early Years Educator with Learning & Skills. Sarah managed to complete the course in under 12 months with support from Laura Dowker (Learning & Skills Tutor).

Sarah has been an outstanding learner, who has secured immediate full-time employment in early years on completion of the course, and will move on to working in the foundation unit in her local school.

She has also decide to progress further in the sector and has been accepted for an Undergraduate in Education Studies (Primary ED), beginning this Autumn.

Good Luck for the future from the Learning & Skills Team.

Darlington Jobs Fair 2023

Learning & Skills had a brilliant time meeting new and old employers, partners and learners at the 2023 Darlington Jobs Fair. It was another fantastic event and we even the team were praised for helping out others as long the way as well.

Debbie Brown, Learning & Skills tutor and learners, Harrison, Eileen-Ivy, Adam, Aiden and Kadiza, who are on our 16-19 Study Programme, helped to give out giveaway bags on the day and were praised by Carole Earl - Business Growth and Investment Officer,  "Debbie and her team of three learners, kindly came along to the Dolphin Centre to help with the recent jobs fair. They helped us to stuff over 2,000 giveaway bags for people attending the fair and their help was truly invaluable. Thanks to them all!" 

Darlington Jobs Fair - June 2023

Darlington Jobs Fair - June 2023

Bravery Award Nomination for L&S Trainer/Assessor

Steven Mair, L&S Motor Vehicle Trainer/ Assessor and a Staff Sergeant with 124 Company, 102 Battalion REME, has now been shortlisted as a finalist in the bravery category of the BBC Radio Tees Make a Difference Awards, with the winners to be revealed at a special ceremony in September. A strange coincidence is, the young man Steven saved is the brother of a previous L&S Motor Vehicle Apprentice who owns a vehicle repair business located in the same premises in which Steven had his own vehicle repair business before he joined L&S.

Commenting on the incident Steven said “I heard a noise, turned around and there was a man bleeding everywhere. I grabbed my trauma kit from the car and all the training I’ve done as a reservist over the last 20 years just kicked in,” Steven will be interviewed by BBC Radio Tees on 29th June 2023 to discuss the axe attack incident and we all hope he gains the recognition he deserves for his bravery.

Make a Difference: BBC Radio Tees - Steven Mair (Bravery) - BBC Sounds [external link]

Learning service celebrates good Ofsted report

Learners and staff from Learning & Skills Darlington are celebrating after the service was graded ‘good’ by Ofsted. Learning & Skills offers a wide range of learning opportunities for all ages, including family learning; study programmes; adult learning; apprenticeships and diplomas.

Inspectors visited the service, which has bases at the Coleridge Centre, Bennet House and Lingfield, in June this year.

Their report stated that “Learners and apprentices learn in a calm and welcoming learning environment where they feel valued and respected. Teachers are caring and very supportive. Learners and apprentices quickly settle into their learning with the support of their tutors. Tutors spend time getting to know their learners, which enables them to understand and anticipate potential challenges and provide learners with good support and encouragement.”

The inspectors were particularly impressed by the service’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision, stating “Learners on ESOL courses who are newly arrived in the country develop new friends and support networks which helps them to settle more easily and feel valued.”

In relation to Ukrainian refugees who have recently accessed the service, the inspectors said; “Adult learners who have recently entered the country as refugees from war-affected countries are supported well to learn English.”

The report also recognised the service for its caring and supportive nature, recognising how all learners feel valued, motivated and respected and are presented with good support and encouragement.

Alaine McCartney, Learning & Skills manager, said: “The ‘good’ Ofsted judgement is testament to the staff’s hard work and commitment to ensure every learner, apprentice, employer and partner receives a high-quality learning experience. We are very proud of the achievement but know the hard work doesn’t stop here as our journey is about continual improvement, innovation and reaching outstanding”.

Councillor Jon Clarke, cabinet member for children and young people: “Learning & Skills provides a valuable service to people in Darlington from all different walks of life and of all ages. I am delighted that its hard work and commitment to education and developing skills has been recognised. “It is never too late to learn and gain new skills and I would advise anyone who has ever thought about returning to education or boosting their skills to get in touch”.

The full Ofsted report can be read at: [external link]

Quote by recent ofsted visit that reads "the report also recognised the service for its caring annd supportive nature, recognising how all learners feel valued, motivated and respected and are presented with good support and encouragement". The quote is on a blue background with quotation marks graphics.

Peter Gibson MP for Darlington visits Learning & Skills

Today we welcomed Peter Gibson, MP for Darlington, to Learning & Skills.

Peter met and spoke with staff and learners across all three of our venues, witnessing apprentices in action in our workshops and courses taking place in our classrooms. Thanks for visiting Peter Gibson MP, we hope you enjoyed your quick insight into 'Darlington's best kept secret'.

September 30 2021

Easter In The Park

Deputy Mayor, Cllr. Cyndi Hughes met with children and families taking part in outdoor holiday activities organised by ourselves in beautiful South Park this morning.

To improve the mental and physical wellbeing of families in Darlington, we organised a number of free, fun family workshops over Easter which involved egg and spoon races, a fun trail around the park, art and crafts activities and lots more.

Not forgetting the free chocolate everyone who attended received!

April 8 2021


Congratulations to Louise Maddison. She recently completed her Level 3 Award in Education & Training with us and today she received her certificate. ⁠

You all may know Louise better as one of the founders of Cornerstone Arts in Darlington (in the old Marks and Spencer's building).

From the connections we have made with Louise through our effective teaching and service promotion, we are, from Wednesday 9th December, partnering with Cornerstone Arts to deliver courses from their venue.

We have also linked with them for work experience for Study Programmes.⁠

Congratulations to Louise for achieving her Level 3 Award in Education & Training and thank you for helping us to link up with Cornerstone Arts

December 3 2020

Louise Maddison displays her certificate




Vicki, Maths 

“I sat my level 2 exam and passed it with 53/64!! I feel a lot more confident now than I did when I first started back in September 2022. We have had Sam by our side every step of the way to help and guide me through Maths Level 1 and level 2. Amel has been fantastic providing me with sheets after sheets of work and revision sessions to help me progress throughout the course. Thank you to both Amel and Sam for all your support”

Charlotte, Maths 

“I really enjoyed the course. Maths isn’t my strongest subject at all but with working in small classes and only 6 students it has helped me massively. Amel has been an amazing tutor and helped me all the way. Now that I have passed it has made me a lot more confident and I am so proud of myself”

Evonne, Maths 

“I have enjoyed the past 5 months, I have learnt new skills which I will continue to use later in life. I had a tutor that took her time to explain in a way in which I understood and I’m looking forward to expanding and learning new skills”

Shelley, Maths 

“I feel more confident in all areas of maths and this has helped massively with my confidence in everyday life, working in school and helping my children with their homework. Thank you to Amel for her time and patience with me with a topic that has never / doesn’t come easy to me”

Emily, CPD

“I very much enjoyed doing CPD courses this helped me to go onto college and learning new things and these look amazing on cv!”

Crystal, Distance Learning

"I chose distance learning courses, especially the paper based courses, as I don't have access to a computer to do the online courses and doing this distance learning fits better around my family and lifestyle.

I've enjoyed every course I've done but my favourite so far has been the 'mental health first aid and advocacy in the workplace' and this was due to the course leader and assessor. She was easy to talk too, honest in her feedback and was available to contact if I was confused or stuck on anything.

The reason I do additional learning as an adult is to support my mental health and keep me mentally stimulated, while I hope to use these courses for work purposes when I'm well enough they have helped me manage my mental health, improve my self-confidence and given me a sense of achievement."

Lauren, Level 1 English

“I went over areas that I needed help on and feel I have progressed well, I have improved in my confidence when presenting in front of a group and I feel as though my writing skills have improved.  I have enjoyed Level 1 and I am looking forward to Level 2 and improving my skills even further”

Denise, Entry 2 English

“I’ve learnt about the English language and spelling rules and I think the tuition has been wonderful with regards to the course, and also caring for mental health. I’m looking forward to coming back to do my entry 3”

Monica, Level 2 English 

I have enjoyed each class very much. I have learned more about language and organisational features of a text and I can definitely say that I am now more confident to write a text, irrespective of its nature. I am also more confident to read and speak in public and I am so excited to discover what is there to learn in the Level 2 classes. Many, many thanks to Louise for helping me with each and every step of my journey!”

Tracey, Level 1 English 

“I have learnt a lot and it has built my confidence - I can now speak in front of people and take part in discussions. I’ve improved with reading with layout and language features and in writing I understand commas and apostrophes more. I’m looking forward to the level 2 course as I enjoyed the level 1 course”

Triage Darlington, ESOL Support Enquiry

"I would just like to add how helpful and amazing Jamellia (Learning & Skills Advisor) was on the phone yesterday, it is evident she enjoys her job as she confidently discussed with me all the different ESOL courses you have and highlighted how as a business you listen to your students and try to do the best for them. Her bubbly nature was infectious and left me with a smile"

Anne Marie Bainbridge, Level 3 Early Years Diploma

"Thank you to my tutor Laura for all your support and encouragement during my educational journey in achieving my diploma. I couldn’t be prouder and you can do anything if you put your mind and effort to it you just have to want to do it and take the jump.  I’m an older learner so of course it can be scary, but not only did I complete my diploma, I also obtained my Certificate in Autism alongside it which is a massive benefit to my new role as an Early Years Educator 💖💙"

Lisa Porritt, Distance Learning Level 2 Counselling course

"I really enjoyed completing the Distance learning Counselling Course and developing my knowledge in this subject matter further – I feel that I learned a lot. I do intend to look for more available training in respect of Counselling, in order to expand my knowledge and experience of the subject matter further. It is an interest, and long term goal of mine to eventually gain higher qualifications in respect of CAMHs and counselling, and by completing this course it has further piqued my interest and desire to pursue this as an option and to eventually transition into this area as a future career path."

Linda, Italian course

“I have thoroughly enjoyed attending Italian courses with Shan.

She gives us a good challenge but also has a good sense of humour. Caters at the right pace and she gives good feedback and explanations which help me to grasp the Italian language more easily”.

Natasha, Functional Skills ICT (Entry Level 2 – Level 2)

“The learning I have had has been fantastic. I think the initial assessment procedure is brilliant. I only started   in April 2015 as an Entry Level 2 and now in November 2015 I am on Level 2. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without Glyn whom is a very patient teacher”.

Ashley, Family Learning course

“My son was choking on a piece of bread, I knew what to do straight away as we had covered choking in my Family Safety Course the week before – I was so pleased I had completed the course I dread to think what would have happened”.

Intensive Support Learner

“I now have the confidence to move on to other courses, I really want to improve my writing I feel okay joining in with a group now”.

Pauline, Italian course

"Thanks so much. I am so happy that the class is to continue, in view of the cutbacks being announced.

I cannot begin to tell you what a difference being able to converse in Italian made to our holiday in Bologna.

It was wonderful to be able to speak to, and understand people in shops, restaurants, railway stations for example. My husband was very impressed. Can't wait to learn more".




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