Our history

Weston College of Further and Higher Education's roots can be traced back over 150 years, with the first documented educational building being built on the Knightstone Campus site by Archdeacon Henry Law in 1845.

This building, the National School (later called St John's Church School), went through several changes before being closed in 1964 and demolished in 1966.

The nearby Hans Price-designed School of Science and Art was opened in 1893 as a response to government educational reforms led by Sir Henry Cole which promoted the teaching of qualifications that would lead to the creation of skilled technicians and designers to maintain Great Britain's industrial dominance. The School of Science and Art was Grade 2 listed 100 years after its opening and was refurbished and redeveloped by the College from a derelict state in 2012. It is now used as the College's conference centre.

Weston College's current Knightstone Campus cost around £550,000 to build (nearly £6 million in today's money) and was opened in September 1970. The College's original design placed its front door on the first floor, accessible by an external staircase. The Knightstone Campus has undergone many changes, including an extension completed in 1998 which moved the College's main entrance from Knightstone Road to the adjacent Lower Church Road and brought it down to the ground floor to create a multi-story reception area.

In 2001, Sir Paul Phillips CBE became the Principal and Chief Executive of Weston College, and served in this position until 2023. During his tenure the College achieved a remarkable transformation, and Sir Paul's visionary leadership was evident through vastly improved results and outcomes for learners, numerous awards, a strong national presence, and institutional growth. Sir Paul’s pioneering work in the realm of special education and inclusivity garnered a Beacon Award and the College as a SEND Centre of Excellence. In November 2015, the College became a university centre (University Centre Weston) with both the University of the West of England and Bath Spa University.

This phase also saw the creation of Loxton Campus in 2008, a £15 million endeavour. The South West Skills Campus emerged in 2013, featuring innovations such as the Lord Baker Innovation Centre and the Future Technology Centre. The £18 million redevelopment of the iconic Winter Gardens, including the pavilion side for community use and the creation of the University Centre Weston was completed in 2015. And then in 2020, the Health and Active Living Skills Centre was opened, which is the multi-million flagship facility based at the College’s Loxton Campus, designed to inspire and educate new generations of students to enter the health and active sectors.

Weston College's trajectory of excellence is also marked by numerous accolades, including winning 'College of the Year' and 'Overall Further Education Provider of the Year titles at the Times Educational Supplement Further Education Awards in 2015, the AoC Beacon Awards for Effective Use of Digital Technology and Innovation in Careers and Enterprise Award in 2022 and then the Excellence in Governance in 2023.

Weston College is now regarded as one of the top FE colleges in the UK; having grown in turnover from £8m to £75m without a merger; today it provides education and vocational training to over 30,000 learners across the South West. Furthermore, it delivers a range of higher education courses through University Centre Weston, over 50 different apprenticeships from intermediate to degree-level and provides education in prisons across the South West.

From its humble origins to its current status as an educational beacon, Weston College's history embodies dedication to quality, innovation, and inclusivity, ensuring a brighter future for all.

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One Message, Different Voices

Take a look at this powerful film made by the staff of Weston College to show how important it is for everyone from different backgrounds to be included. The film shares heartfelt stories and interviews with a diverse group of staff, showing how accepting different identities and backgrounds can make a big difference. Its purpose is to encourage viewers to think about their own biases and work towards making our community more welcoming to all. We invite everyone, regardless of their background, to join us and be a part of our journey toward a more inclusive future.

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Our workplace champions the right of staff to embrace all Afro-hairstyles. We acknowledge that Afro-textured hair is an important part of our Black employees’ racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious identities, and requires specific styling for hair health and maintenance. We celebrate Afro-textured hair worn in all styles including, but not limited to, afros, locs, twists, braids, cornrows, fades, hair straightened through the application of heat or chemicals, weaves, wigs, headscarves, and wraps. In this workplace, we recognise and celebrate our colleagues’ identities. We are a community built on an ethos of equality and respect where hair texture and style have no bearing on an employee's ability to succeed.