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
"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
"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
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
"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
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