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 - ABDO College

Update from the Principal

Having joined the College full-time in January, my first few months have been packed with events and opportunities to get to know the College and the optical sector. This has helped me really understand how ABDO College can add value to the sector and support it in being future-facing and resilient.

Our mission is to advance the profession through the provision of high quality, innovative education and training. Our aim is to deliver sector-leading education as the specialist training provider of choice. Our focus in the first part of the year has, therefore, been on how we can achieve our aims.

From our optical assistant courses through to our FBDO diploma and onto our contact lens courses, it’s a privilege to be able to see and hear about our students’ development and achievements. A highlight for me was our recent graduation ceremony, where we celebrated the success of our students.

Apprenticeships approval

There has been a lot going on at the College, from apprenticeships to employer engagement and the General Optical Council (GOC) inspection. Following the Department of Education approval to open up the FBDO diploma to higher level apprenticeships, I’m delighted to say that our application to be a recognised apprenticeship provider was successfully approved in early May. This is a key milestone for the College and we look forward to working with employers and learners on this new sector offering.

The sector as a whole is awaiting GOC approval to run apprenticeships and that will determine when apprenticeships can start. We hope we are able to welcome our first apprentices in September, subject to GOC approval for the apprenticeship programme.

We are planning to run the FBDO apprenticeship diploma alongside our traditional routes to qualification. This means we can continue to meet student needs from a variety of backgrounds, as well as meeting the evolving needs of employers.

Having met a wide group of employers, we’ve also taken on board their feedback as to how they would like us to evolve our diploma programme. We’re starting with some changes to how we deliver our block teaching, moving to shorter blocks for our first and second years from September and then for our third years from September 2025.

We are aligning this with significant changes to the syllabus and delivery, as outlined in the GOC’s education strategic review (ESR). This will give us a good balance of in-person and online teaching in a way which meets both student and employer needs and enables us to be forward-looking in our teaching approach. We will be asking for further employer feedback on updates they’d like us to consider across all of our programmes in an upcoming employer engagement survey. I look forward to hearing back from employers.

Finally, we welcomed the GOC to the College in February to review our FBDO and degree programmes. It was a genuine pleasure to welcome an engaged GOC panel to the College and to hear their questions, reflections and insights.

We are awaiting our formal report back from the GOC, but our informal feedback was both positive and constructive. It also showcased for me how passionate so many parts of the sector are about lifelong learning and the value placed on this. That can only be positive news for the College and the profession moving forwards. I very much look forward to supporting the College on the next stage of its exciting development.