Outstanding!: College group given top Ofsted marks across the board

Chichester College Group has become the second general further education college to be rated ‘outstanding’ under Ofsted’s new inspection framework.

The group, which formed in 2017 following mergers between Brinsbury College, Chichester College, Crawley College and then Worthing College in 2019, received grade ones across the board in a report published today following a visit in early March.

Chief executive Shelagh Legrave said that to achieve the rating after such a short period of forming was a “phenomenal achievement” and a “true testament to the hard work, dedication and talent of all of our staff and students”.

Ofsted’s glowing report lauded leaders and managers for successfully developing a strong “collaborative culture between the campuses, particularly within teaching, training and learning”.

Chichester College Group has more than 12,000 students who are all “rightly very proud of their college”, according to inspectors.

They found that learners and apprentices of different abilities and backgrounds work “harmoniously together and in so doing support and inspire one another” and they are “ambitious to achieve”.

The report continues: “They [students] cherish the passion and subject expertise of their teachers which inspire them to extend their learning.

“They develop new interests and pursuits, such as involving themselves in wider community, national and international interests, with enthusiasm. For example, learners work with Crawley Open House, a centre for homeless people, the Alzheimer’s Society or with overseas education charities [such as building schools in Kenya].”

Leaders and managers were praised for working “closely” with employers and other external stakeholders to “research and design appropriate courses for learners” and ensure that these courses meet “fully the demands of their local and regional communities”.

They are also “highly ambitious” for disadvantaged learners and those with additional needs, who “rapidly develop the skills needed to participate within society and gain employment”.

The leadership team was commended for having “robust” measures in place to make sure that subcontracted provision to eight providers is of a “high standard”.

“They hold subcontractors to account and frequently check on the progress that learners and apprentices are making in this area of provision. As a result, learners and apprentices within subcontracted provision achieve as well as their peers, and occasionally better.”

Prior to the merger, Crawley College was judged as ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted, while Worthing College was rated as ‘good’.

Chichester College Group chair James Sarmecanic said: “This report places CCG’s standing at the forefront of the further education sector, particularly among college groups.

“I am proud of the entire team of CCG staff across all colleges. They work extremely hard and demonstrate great dedication to give our students the best opportunities possible.”

The first and only other general FE college to be rated ‘outstanding’ under Ofsted’s new inspection framework, which was rolled out in September, was Newcastle and Stafford Colleges Group.

Ofsted has paused the publication of further education and skills reports during the Covid-19 pandemic, but they will release them sooner if requested by individual providers.