A large college group in Kent is celebrating after securing a “momentous” top-rating from Ofsted.
EKC Group today became the first general FE college to sweep ‘outstanding’ grades across the board since the watchdog introduced enhanced inspections last autumn.
It becomes the eleventh general FE college to currently hold a grade one overall Ofsted judgement.
EKC Group encompasses six large FE colleges in Ashford, Broadstairs, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and the Isle of Sheppey as well as a training arm for prison education. It currently teaches 5,500 young students, 750 apprentices and nearly 2,000 adult learners.
In a report published today following a visit in March, inspectors said the group has created “calm, positive and inclusive environments” which allow “highly motivated” learners to “thrive”.
The group said the report demonstrated that standards had not slipped despite the rapid expansion it had undergone since its last rating in 2017 (a ‘good’ rating), which include acquisitions of Ashford and Canterbury colleges.
EKC Group chief executive Graham Razey said: “This Ofsted rating is a momentous occasion for us as an organisation, and we are delighted that inspectors recognised the incredible work put in by staff and students.
“To be deemed outstanding in all aspects highlights the excellent standard at which we operate, with everyone playing their part to provide top quality training and improve the socio-economic prosperity of the communities we serve.”
Ofsted found learners expanded their studies to include social work in the community through volunteering in food banks, giving talks in primary schools and creating art displays.
The report said that learners and apprentices, including those with high needs, made very good progress, and gained additional skills that complement their qualifications study.
Inspectors said the group makes a strong contribution to meeting skills needs, developing “exceptional links” in its communities, demonstrating an excellent knowledge of the local economy and reviewing course offerings to quickly respond to developing needs, as well as playing a pivotal part in the local skills improvement plan process.
Courses were developed well with employers in order to reflect current industry practices and future skills needs, the report continued.
The report described the adult learning courses as “ambitious and adaptable”, while teachers were praised for their efforts in clearly demonstrating skills and using questions to check learners’ understanding.
Those with additional needs were well supported, and included frequent communication to ensure they made good progress and planned adjustments as needed.
High quality careers advice helped learners make informed decisions about their next steps, the report said, with work placements directly relating to industries students aspired to work in.
Inspectors said that most staff are “very proud to work for the group” and updated their vocational practice and teaching skills regularly.
The report also praised the oversight of governors and the frequent observations leaders made of teaching to ensure they were aware of areas in need of improvement and regularly reviewed provision.