Just under three quarters of colleges are now rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, as the sector’s rapid improvement continues into 2018.

Two reports published this morning – for Chelmsford College and Craven College – record a crucial step up from grade three to grade two.

And Leicester College and Lakes College both achieved the same level of improvement in reports late last month.

Grades three and four are considered unacceptable by Ofsted, so the news that four more colleges have managed the climb will be a significant morale boost for their peers.

It also means that 74 per cent of colleges now hold the top two grades.

FE Week analysis up to the end of August – later confirmed in the 2016/17 Annual Ofsted Report – showed that just 69 per cent of general FE colleges were rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ at the time, a figure that had fallen for three years running.

We carried out further analysis in December, which showed the proportion rated ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’ had risen to 73 per cent, after a good showing from colleges in the early part of the current academic year.

Today’s report on Craven College, which taught just over 6,000 learners last year, highlighted the “unrelenting” drive of its leadership.

“Leaders have made good progress in realising their vision to provide high-quality education and training for students and apprentices,” it said.

“Since the previous inspection, leaders and managers have focused unrelentingly on tackling weaknesses. They have put in place a wide range of largely successful strategies and actions for improvement.”

The report on Chelmsford College, which taught around 3,200 learners last year, was full of praise for the “high expectations” of governors and senior leaders.

It said that they “communicate well an effective learning strategy to improve the quality of provision and outcomes for learners”.

The 2016/17 annual Ofsted report also showed an eight-point fall compared with the previous year in sixth-form colleges with a grade one or two.

The proportion of SFCs receiving the top two grades had previously climbed every year since 2012.

It rose from 72 per cent five years ago to an impressive 89 per cent in 2016.

But figures to September last year showed that the proportion rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ had dropped to 81 per cent.

Meanwhile, 80 per cent of independent training providers received the top two grades.

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