Two years after pilot success, at last it’s official — Exeter College is outstanding

Exeter College need no longer bite its lip after watching Walsall College take credit for the first ‘outstanding’ Ofsted result under a tough new inspection regime nearly a year after it had already achieved the feat.

The Devon college today won outstanding status having earned the top grade in early 2012 after a pilot no-notice inspection — but the resulting report was not published, although the result was publicised.

It meant the college remained on its ‘good’ grading from 2008, and could only look on with envy as Walsall College was hailed the first to officially win an outstanding grade under the new inspection regime.

The Midland college’s grading came in March last year, around five months after the new FE and skills common inspection framework — with the notice period down from 30 days to just two — had fully come into force.

Exeter College principal Richard Atkins

Exeter College principal Richard Atkins

But Exeter was revisited by the education watchdog last month and, like Walsall, inspectors gave it grade one marks right across the headline fields.

Exeter principal Richard Atkins said: “Following our success with the pilot in 2012, I was confident that the Ofsted inspectors would see again evidence of our outstanding teaching and learning and exceptional practice across our curriculum areas.

“The new inspection places a high emphasis, rightly, on hearing the views of students and college users and seeing at first-hand training and academic sessions. This makes for a very rigorous and thorough view of the college and, while we are not perfect, I am very proud that this report makes such positive reading.”

The report on the 9,000-learner college said: “Outstanding leadership, management and governance have improved teaching, learning and assessment and raised standards since the last inspection.

“College leaders have established a culture of high expectations in which lecturers are encouraged to innovate, and learners to have high aspirations. A very large majority of learners successfully achieve their qualifications and almost all learners progress to further education, training or employment once they have completed their course.

“Standards of almost all learners’ work are high, and in many cases very high. Learners attending the excellent provision in The Michael Caines Academy, the REACH Academy and the Flybe Training Academy produce exceptionally high quality work.

“As a result of the highly motivated, skilled and experienced staff, the quality of teaching, learning and assessment is outstanding. Lecturers provide learners with challenging work that prepares them extremely well for their next steps.”

It also said: “The college has excellent, long-established links with local businesses and organisations which offer valuable work experience or visits. These show learners the career options in the sciences and help them with their choice of degree.

“For example, last year four physics learners, who were considering a career in engineering, gained valuable knowledge by working with a local company on a design problem to reduce waste from a moulding process.”

Mr Atkins added: “The success of the college is a direct result of the continued development of strong and committed partnerships between the college and local and regional businesses, schools, and community organisations.

“I am pleased that the strength and range of these partnerships are recognised as a real feature of the college with the inspectors praising our ‘excellent links with schools, employers and other agencies’; that our values and priorities are viewed as fostering ‘excellence, innovation and a commitment to educating and training the local community’ and that the college’s provision makes an ‘excellent contribution to the educational, social and economic development needs of the region’.”

Philip Bostock, college governors’ chair said: “On behalf of the board I am delighted that the college’s passion and commitment to outstanding teaching and learning has been recognised by this fantastic outcome. This Ofsted report is a great result for the students and staff, for the city and the wider community the college serves.”