A university technical college (UTC) has been rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted just a year after being hit with the inspectorate’s lowest possible judgement.

UTC Portsmouth was slapped with an ‘inadequate’ rating in a report published in July 2020 after it failed to provide effective safeguarding arrangements.

But thanks to “swift” action from the senior leadership team, the 14 to 19 technical college can now boast Ofsted’s highest possible grade.

In a report published today, the inspectorate said “impeccable” pupils and “expert” staff are “overwhelmingly proud to be part of this learning community”.

There was high praise for the college’s “precise” curriculum, “high-quality” destinations, students who are “intrinsically motivated to do their best” and a “smooth transition” to remote learning when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Senior leaders were lauded for turning the college around in such a short space of time, with inspectors saying their “ambition to provide the best possible education for pupils shines through all of their work”.

Most importantly, leaders and trustees have “robustly addressed” historic weaknesses in safeguarding, the report said.

“Beyond the systems and processes, they have successfully strengthened the school’s safeguarding culture. Consequently, staff are vigilant and act quickly to keep pupils safe.”

UTCs have historically struggled to achieve the top two Ofsted ratings. But analysis shows this is beginning to change.

UTC Portsmouth is now the fourth to be judged ‘outstanding’, and 21 others are judged as ‘good’.

Of the 38 out of 48 open UTCs which currently carry an Ofsted rating, 25, or two thirds, are now ‘good’ or better, according to the Baker Dearing Trust – the organisation that licenses and supports the technical colleges.

James Doherty, principal of UTC Portsmouth, said he was “delighted” that the college now has an overall effectiveness rating that “reflects the fantastic college we are”.

“The report highlights the quality of education as a standout area, reinforced by the unparalleled destination figures for our students; the best in the region,” he told FE Week.

“We are seeing significantly more students go onto university from their studies with us than the national or regional average.

“The inspectors were especially positive about how respectful and sensible our students are and recognised what a caring and nurturing environment we have created at the college. I was proud that they noted how impeccably our pupils conduct themselves and that they are intrinsically motivated to do their best.”

UTC Portsmouth opened in September 2017 and specialises in teaching STEM subjects with a particular focus on mechanical and electrical engineering disciplines.

It currently teaches 404 students.

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  1. “and that they are intrinsically motivated to do their best”…

    Intrinsic, adjective. Belonging naturally; essential.

    Which would suggest their recruitment activity somehow identifies ‘intrinsic motivation’ and therefore that applicants who are not ‘intrinsically motivated’ are rejected…