College rated outstanding after an Ofsted found ‘remarkable progress’ achieved.
It is the second further education college in England to achieve an outstanding grade under Ofsted’s tough new inspection regime and the first to go from a grade 3 to outstanding.
The college achieved a clean sweep of outstanding grades across the main headline findings of
• overall effectiveness, outcomes for learners;
• teaching and learning and leadership;
• management, with managers winning praise from the inspection team for the ‘remarkable progress’ they had made in the last four years.
Inspectors commented on ‘the collective endeavour of all staff that has established a culture in which learners take absolute priority, and there is an unrelenting focus on each learner achieving his or her best’.
Andrew Miller, College Principal, said: “This is a great achievement for our staff and for the borough of Swindon. We are delighted that Ofsted has recognised the college as one of the best in the country and confirmed that the student experience and teaching and learning here are outstanding. As you can imagine, we are very proud of this achievement.
“The result is a real tribute to our staff and governors who have, in the last four years, worked together to move the College forwards and who have embraced the changes required to focus on our learners to ensure they achieve the best they can.”
The 10,000 learner college, rated as satisfactory in 2009 and inadequate in 2007, was inspected at the end of February 2013 and is the first college in the South of England to achieve outstanding. Since the new Common Inspection Framework was introduced in September 2012 only one other college, Walsall, has to date achieved the outstanding grade.
The Ofsted report also notes:
‘Managers and staff have high expectations of learners and are ambitious for their success at college and beyond. Almost all learners progress to further learning at a higher level or to employment. Learners who, hitherto, had not dared to consider higher education have been successful in their applications to university and are excited about their plans for future study.’
‘Learners are given outstanding academic and personal support. It is highly structured and coordinated well; teachers and support staff are passionate about, and successful at, helping learners to overcome barriers to progress and enabling them to learn.’
‘Leadership and management of the college are outstanding. Leaders and managers have successfully created a culture of respect and ambition, and have improved the quality of the college’s provision in a comparatively short time.’
‘College leaders work very effectively with a wide range of partners to analyse and meet the interests of the various communities the college serves in the town. The curriculum offer is adapted quickly to meet emerging demand, for example in responding to local employers’ skills needs and to the impact of the current economic downturn.’
The college will not be resting on its laurels. Andrew Miller said: “We will be maintaining our unrelenting focus on our students’ achievements and the very high standards we have at the college. The future is about sustaining what we have achieved and developing the college even further.
“Those students thinking of joining us in September have now had their choice endorsed by Ofsted. They will not only be receiving an outstanding learning experience but will also be well equipped to progress on to further study or into the workplace.”
The report comes around four months after chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw’s annual report in which he called on the government to “shine a spotlight” on FE.
Only two colleges achieved outstanding last year inspected under the old framework and only one other college (Walsall) has achieved outstanding under the new framework introduced in September.