NCL - An overview

NCL - An overview

Image of a teacher leading a class in a discussion

Newcastle City Learning - an overview 

Author: Gillian Forrester, Head of Adult Learning


"Adult Community Education (ACE) changes lives. It seeks to play a vital role in supporting residents on their journey to learn skills, to enter, return, or progress in work.  Alongside the economic benefits, it reduces loneliness and makes people happier, healthier, more confident, and resilient – making places smarter and more inclusive."

Learning for Life: the role of adult community education in developing thriving local communities – A Handbook for Councillors.  


Newcastle City Learning (NCL) is the post-16 delivery service within Newcastle City Council. Newcastle City Learning works within the context of the city’s demographics and priorities. The stated purpose of the service is:



Providing opportunities in Newcastle for all to learn, improve and grow.


Our Vision

Enabling Newcastle city residents to grow and thrive by providing high-quality, relevant development opportunities, making a difference to the employment chances and lives of all our learners.



Within the City Council, Newcastle City Learning (NCL) sits within the Education and Skills Division of the Children, Education and Skills Directorate, newly established on 1st December 2019. NCL is also represented on a number of key local authority groups including the Skills & Employability Group, the Skills Hub steering group and the, North of Tyne apprenticeship hub working group.


At the heart of the service is an ethos of supporting the people furthest away from the labour market in the city to develop their skills and confidence to move them closer to the jobs market.  All our work is underpinned by the city council’s values of "proud, fair and ambitious".


As well as delivering adult community learning provision, NCL has strong links with a range of partners including Job Centre Plus (JCP), Council Careers and Guidance team, Social Services, Your Homes Newcastle, Newcastle Futures Ltd, North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA), schools and a range of employers with whom it collaborates to provide additional training and support to the residents of the city.  NCL is a provider of apprenticeship provision on behalf of the Council and other local employers.


In addition, NCL delivers programmes of learning to young people.  Many of the cohorts have progressed from local schools and alternative provision providers.  Many of our young learners have a wide range of additional needs and require higher levels of support to make the transition into further education, apprenticeships, or employment.


Newcastle sits within the North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) area and Adult Education Budget (AEB) funding has been devolved from the 2020/21 academic year. NCL is one of the largest providers within the combined authority and is working very closely with the leaders of NTCA to ensure that our curriculum meets both the needs of the city, the residents, and the wider geographical area within the north east region.


NCL receives funding through the Adult Education Budget (including the former Community Learning element), 16-18 Study Programme, the Apprenticeship levy and Advanced Learning Loans as well as some full cost delivery.


The service has a very large ESOL provision.  However, the city still has a significant unmet demand for ESOL, and local providers are working with JCP to try to manage this as effectively as possible within the budget constraints.   This curriculum area continues to be a very important part of our provision and continues to perform very well offering high-quality learning opportunities at our Westgate College campus for a growing number of residents to assist them to develop their English and to be able to integrate more seamlessly into life within their communities.


NCL also has a strong basic skills curriculum which provides core support in the development of literacy and numeracy to the residents of the city.


NCL also offers vocational training to help adults gain qualifications to help them move closer to the jobs market.  The curriculum leaders have established good working relationships with several employers to support the delivery of this strand of the curriculum and continue to look at regional trends to ensure that the curriculum offer remains relevant and meets local priorities.  In 2022 we partnered up with StaffPower training to provide pre-employment training to enable residents to move into local vacancies within the city.


The service also provides a range of community learning and recreational leaning to support the residents of the city.


The service offers courses from four main buildings across the city:


  • Westgate Community College 
  • Newcastle Skills Centre (on the Westgate site) 
  • Heaton Centre 
  • Gosforth Library and Learning Centre.


From September 2022 NCL will also be delivering courses within the Great Park area in the local community centre for the first time.


The service received a full Ofsted inspection visit in October 2021.  At this visit the service was awarded the judgement of good in all provision types and key judgements.  Overall effectiveness was also judged as good in recognition of the significant improvements made since the last inspection.  A full copy of the report is available on the Ofsted website. The inspectors reported that: -


Learners of all ages thrive in a learning culture that celebrates diversity. NCL offers courses for many of the city’s most marginalised groups, such as asylum seekers, refugees, vulnerable adults, and young people from difficult backgrounds. Staff promote and value the aspirations of all learners, irrespective of their backgrounds.


Newcastle City Learning continues to provide good quality specialist support to learners of all ages with learning difficulties and disabilities including those who attract additional high needs funding.   The college has established itself as a high-quality provider of education for learners with high needs and works in partnership with the council to ensure that these learners continue to receive specialist support and education to help them make progress against individual targets within their Educational Health Care Plans. 

The following areas for improvement were identified at the last inspection visit: -

What does the provider need to do to improve?


  • Ensure that teachers have high ambitions for apprentices and provide them with the guidance and teaching that they need to achieve distinction grades on their apprenticeship programmes.
  • Ensure that teachers identify and correct errors in the standard of written English produced by learners with high needs, so that they can provide learners with feedback on how to improve the accuracy of their work.
  • Invest in the internal and external fabric and facilities of the buildings used by adult learners so that they can enjoy a more comfortable and inspiring learning environment.
  • Ensure that more learners enjoy an outstanding experience in lessons.


(Ofsted report, November 2021, Newcastle City Council)



Since our last Ofsted visit, we have continued to grow and improve our offer.  We have expanded our curriculum offer to meet the needs of Newcastle city residents in 2022 by offering a range of new programmes.  One project was the development of the DREAM, DISCOVER, DO programme which seeks to support those mostly affected by the pandemic and the unemployed, who really do need some support and guidance to change direction, identify who can help them to realise their new dreams, and move closer to those goals by taking inspired action.  This course has been very successful this year and changed lives.


We will also be supporting the Government MULTIPLY initiative to offer programmes to develop numeracy skills in different and enjoyable ways from September.


We continue to grow our adult curriculum offer to attract new learners into the service and our full brochure will be delivered around the city during the last week in August.  Full details of our offer can be found at our website.


We also of course continue to grow and develop our support for our young people and our learners with learning difficulties and disabilities.


It is exciting times for Newcastle City Learning and we have a great team here to take us forward into the future.