Specialist college sweeps ‘outstanding’ in first inspection

Inspectors praised the specialist college's use of technology and "highly skilled" staff

Inspectors praised the specialist college's use of technology and "highly skilled" staff

30 Jun 2023, 13:58

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A specialist college for 19-25-year-olds where learners are “encouraged to behave as independent adults” has been graded ‘outstanding’ in all areas by Ofsted. 

This is the first full inspection for Skills for Independent and Employability Limited, trading as The Oaks Specialist College, since it opened its doors to ten learners in 2018.

Inspectors were impressed with the college’s “expertly” tailored curriculum and learners’ use of mobile apps to help them independently navigate through their education “and the world around them.”

At the time of the May inspection, the Kent-based college had 109 learners, most were on entry-level courses. There were 23 learners on pre-entry level provision and 18 were studying at levels 1 and 2. All learners have education, health and care plans. 

The full inspection report, published today, explained that learners have a direct influence on the curriculum, which “helps them to explore their interests and talents and build their social and communication skills.”

Oak specialist college principal Ros Leach

All learners provide feedback to college leaders, with some “supported to represent their peers”.

The use of technology in teaching practical skills and enabling learners to live independently was a common theme in the report. 

College principal Ros Leach said “This is a great place with huge ambition for our learners. We are also a Microsoft showcase college, the only specialist college to achieve such status, and we use technology to great effect to improve the lives and increase the opportunities for our learners when they leave.”

“Highly-skilled and qualified” teaching staff were praised for “seamlessly” meeting the complex needs of learners and for providing real-life scenarios, like travel and shopping, which all helps learners’ progress.

Simon Harris, chair of trustees, said, “The inspection was incredibly rigorous, over three days and with very experienced inspectors. That they were blown away by what the college does every day is a testament to the skills and experience of the staff and the incredible progress and amazing personal development our learners make here.”

Trustees properly challenge college leaders to maintain high educational standards which, in turn, leads to “appropriate and valuable” training so that staff can develop their own skills and knowledge, the report said.

Ofsted gave The Oaks top ‘outstanding’ judgments in all areas; quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development, leadership and management, and provision for learners with high needs. 

Chief executive Gordon Tillman praised his staff’s “care and passion”.

“Whilst we don’t do what we do for Ofsted, this recognition from them is brilliant. It is a reflection of the hard work, commitment, care and passion that all of our team gives to develop our young adults in so many different ways. It is our staff that are exceptional.”

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