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Northumberland College Celebrates Achieving Best Ever Ofsted Result

Northumberland College Celebrates Achieving Best Ever Ofsted Result  
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Following an Ofsted inspection that was carried out in January, governors, staff and students at Northumberland College are celebrating the official report, which praises the college for significant improvements and confirms the college is one of the best in the region.

The result is perhaps all the more of an achievement, since it comes after Ofsted introduced changes to the way it inspects schools and further education colleges (FE) in September 2012. These changes have given renewed focus to standards of teaching and learning and since their introduction several FE colleges have actually seen their grades reduced, but Northumberland College has proved its high standards of teaching.

The Ofsted inspection report states:
"Teaching, learning and assessment have improved markedly across the college."
"Levels of support for students are excellent, which is a key factor in motivating them to succeed."
"There is a significant upward trend in success rates seen across age groups."
"Students make good progress on their course and most move on to employment or higher levels of study."
"Teachers have high expectations of their students and students benefit from highly skilled and experienced teachers with credible industry knowledge."

On health, social care and childcare, the report states:
"Teaching, learning and assessment are good and this is reflected in the very high proportion of students who achieve their qualifications. Students acquire knowledge about subjects very quickly and employers provide practice activities and experience that increase students' practical skills."

On animal care and environmental conservation, the report states:
"The number of students completing their course is high and above national rates. Teachers are experts in their area and place a strong emphasis on creating a lively and enjoyable learning environment where students build confidence and develop practical skills. Teachers use the zoo, equine centre and Kirkley Hall estate very effectively to develop a wide range and high level of skills and the zoo provides a unique and outstanding facility for students."

The college, which was last inspected by Ofsted in 2009, has overcome several challenges of late, introduced new initiatives and is now embracing a vision to be an outstanding provider of education and training.

Northumberland College has two main campus sites; Ashington provides a wide range of vocational courses from business to art and design and engineering to hair and beauty, while Kirkley Hall is the college's land-based centre where students have access to two commercially run farms, an equine centre and zoological gardens with 120 species. The college also has outreach centres at Berwick, Hexham and Prudhoe.

The college offers a broad range of provision from FE full-time courses for 14 to 18s, to Apprenticeships, full and part-time courses for 19+ students, a range of HE courses and bespoke training for employers.

In response to challenges, in April 2012 the college appointed Jacqui Henderson CBE as their new Chair of Governors and recruited six new governors onto their governance team. The college adopted new planning and quality management processes and in November 2012 welcomed new principal, Stuart Cutforth.

Jacqui Henderson said: "This year has been a very challenging and rewarding one for Northumberland College, everyone has worked extremely hard to ensure that students and customers have the best possible experience and outcome. We are appreciative of the considerable support we've been given by all of our stakeholders who can take pride in this Ofsted result and we welcome the wealth of experience Stuart Cutforth has within the FE sector."

Stuart Cutforth said: "Northumberland College has much to be proud of in its 11/12 learner success rates, which are the result of staff commitment and the hard work of our students.

Our Ofsted result is testimony to many factors that have made these improvements possible. This college has rigorous self assessment processes, a fantastic staff development scheme and a shared desire to achieve high standards for our students."

The success rates, which firmly position Northumberland College within the top 10% of FE colleges nationally, include:

  • A long course overall success rate of 88.1% (compared to a national rate of 80.2%).
  • A long course retention rate of 92.5% (compared to a national rate of 86.3%).
  • A long course success rate for 16 to 18 year old students of 90.3% (compared to a national rate of 81.8%.

 

One of the core areas, for which the college has been commended by Ofsted, is its leadership and management. Inspectors commented that "The college has a clear vision and strategic direction that has inspired and motivated staff and students."

Furthermore, the college has launched a Leading Learning initiative that sees governors and senior managers playing an even more active role in college life.

Northumberland College has a clear vision to continue to deliver excellence to all of its stakeholders and to improve community engagement, indeed the college is developing momentum for a journey towards continued and sustained success.

Stuart said: "Colleges need to respond to change and with increased expectation from students and all of our stakeholders, we will continue to develop new ways of working to stay relevant and responsive in our delivery of quality training courses. This positive Ofsted outcome is a tribute to the hard work of our talented staff."