Ofsted watch: Two sixth form colleges score top grades

Two sixth form colleges have been declared ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, with one retaining their top grade after more than a decade without inspection.

Meanwhile, a publicly-owned private provider has dropped to a grade three after nine years as a grade one.

After its last inspection in 2008, Peter Symonds College yet again achieved a grade one in all areas of its provision.

Most of its 4,200 students achieve high grades in their A-levels and are “well-prepared for their aspirational next steps to prestigious universities,” inspectors found.

College leaders and managers place a “very strong” emphasis on maintaining the wellbeing of their staff by allowing them to take part in activities which balance out their working lives like yoga and pilates.

Resultingly, staff feel “very well supported and repay managers by promoting the college’s ambitious culture for all its students”.

Elsewhere, Callywith College earned a grade one in its first inspection since converting to a 16 to 19 academy in September 2017.

It teaches 1,081 students, who were found to be “overwhelmingly positive” about all aspects of college life, despite having to travel a considerable distance to attend.

Inspectors found the college had an environment which was “exceptionally supportive and caring” but also “calm and positive” – which allows students to thrive while focusing intently on their learning and personal development.

Safeguarding was considered to be effective, as it was with Peter Symonds.

Greater Brighton Metropolitan College was found to have made ‘significant progress’ in how leaders and managers have trained teachers, especially those who teach levels 2 and 3, to support students, with high needs.

This was after a grade three full inspection found teachers did not have sufficient skills, knowledge or information to be able to meet those students’ requirements.

But since then, leaders have provided mandatory training for teachers so they know what types of support students with high needs may require and how to go about providing this.

Nottingham College, on the other hand, earned a grade three in its first inspection since being formed from a merger of New College Nottingham and Central College Nottingham in 2017.

Too often, inspectors wrote, its managers and staff aim to meet the minimum requirements of qualifications.

St Helens College has also been hit with a grade three, despite the interim principal having begun to stabilise it following its merger with Knowsley Community College, which an FE Commissioner report last year found had been underfunded.

Governors need to establish a stable leadership team to create an aspirational culture and ambitious curriculum, the report reads.

Hoople Ltd, a publicly-owned private provider created by Herefordshire Council and Wye Valley NHS Trust, went from a grade one to a grade three this week.

The ‘outstanding’ score was awarded in 2011 to Hoople, which holds contracts with the government to deliver apprenticeships and study programmes and does so to 46 apprentices and 22 learners.

The apprentices were studying a curriculum which inspectors did consider to not “consistently challenge them and enable them to reach their potential”: it is often too focused on achieving qualifications, rather than their personal development.

Independent provider Absolute HR Solutions also received a grade three, partly because “too many” apprentices have withdrawn early.

But inspectors complimented leaders and managers on their clear strategic vision and said the 34 apprentices receive good support from staff.

Agincare Group, a care provider with 78 apprentices, was also handed a grade three as trainers and assessors have focused too much on “unchallenging tasks” which apprentices needed to complete, instead of setting work which makes them think hard.

Apprentices, especially those with prior experience, do not always find the work sufficiently demanding, the report reads.

Employer provider Medivet received a grade three also, for its provision to 161 apprentices.

But leaders were found to have a good understanding of the skills required by the industry, and staff enable learners to cumulatively develop knowledge and skills.

Yet too many of them were making slow progress towards qualifying as registered veterinary nurses.

DART Limited and Straight A Training Limited both maintained their ‘good’ grades at a short inspection this week.

And East Surrey College, GTG Training, Welcome Skills, Pentland Assessment Centres and Urban Education and Training Group all made ‘reasonable progress’ in every area of a monitoring visit.

GFE CollegesInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
East Surrey College23/01/202006/02/2020M2
Greater Brighton Metropolitan College23/01/202007/02/2020M3
Nottingham College17/01/202007/02/20203N/A
St Helens College17/01/202007/02/20203N/A


Independent Learning ProvidersInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
Absolute HR Solutions Ltd23/01/202006/02/20203M
Agincare Group Limited17/01/202006/02/20203M
DART Limited14/01/202003/02/202022
GTG Training Limited22/01/202007/02/2020M3
Hoople Ltd23/01/202004/02/202031
N A College Trust16/01/202005/02/20202N/A
Straight A Training Limited23/01/202005/02/202022
The Apprenticeship College Ltd10/01/202007/02/20202M
Pentland Assessment Centres Ltd09/01/202006/02/2020MN/A
Urban Education & Training Group Limited15/01/202003/02/2020MN/A
Welcome Skills Limited17/01/202005/02/2020MM


Sixth Form Colleges (inc 16-19 academies)InspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
Callywith College14/01/202007/02/20201N/A
Peter Symonds College17/01/202004/02/202011


Employer providersInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade


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