Ofsted praises New College Swindon for “raising learners’ aspirations” following merger

23 May 2022

New College Swindon is ‘delighted’ with the results of a recent Ofsted monitoring visit. In the report, inspectors praised the successful transition of Swindon’s largest post-16 education provider, following the merger of Swindon College and New College Swindon in 2020. It recognises the hard work that senior leadership and staff have put in over the past 18 months, in their efforts to tackle the many challenges that come with bringing the two institutions and former competitors together.

A monitoring visit is shorter than a full inspection and is used to determine whether a school or college continues to provide a good standard of education. These usually take place for providers who are rated ‘Good’ or when there is a significant change in circumstances. The visit, which took place on the 24th and 25th of March 2022, focused on three main themes, following the merger in October 2020.

The first asked the question, what progress have leaders made in establishing a cohesive vision and culture in the newly merged College? Inspectors said that Governors and senior leaders have developed a well-considered strategy for the College that they have communicated clearly to staff, employers and stakeholders. When looking at how the College has pulled together staff from both their Queens Drive and North Star campuses, inspectors noted that senior leaders have taken a sensibly measured approach to achieving their vision of all staff and learners feeling part of one college and leaders have focused successfully on aligning systems and processes. They noted that teachers are enthusiastic about how they share resources, and the curriculum has been enriched across both campuses.

The second theme focussed on progress made in developing a curriculum which is closely aligned to learners’ aspirations and which opens up employment opportunities. The report highlights the progression opportunities available at the college, across a wide range of vocational sectors, from level 1 through to higher education (degree-level) and academic A level programmes. It also recognises the College’s strong business links, particularly in the fast-growing fields of technology, cyber security and manufacturing engineering. These links mean learners are given the key skills and knowledge needed for future employment. Inspectors said, that by working more closely with employers, staff have increased the range of opportunities learners have for work placements. The new Institute of Technology at the North Star campus has enabled teachers to raise learners’ aspirations by increasing the range of higher education courses in Swindon.

Finally, inspectors commented on the improvements made to education programmes for young people at what was previously Swindon College, noting the strengthening of pastoral and individual support and improvements to English and Maths. They also commented on how the focus of a good range of methods to improve teaching and learning which were noted by learners they spoke to.

Discussing what it has taken to get to this point Carole Kitching, Principal and CEO of New College, says,

“It’s a complete team effort. From the Governors and senior leadership team who have set out the vision and strategy for our newly merged College, to the teaching and support staff who have remained committed to delivering an outstanding experience over the past two years. Of course, there have been many challenges to overcome, not least, trying to integrate two sets of staff and provide opportunities for collaboration, whilst going through the pandemic. I am very proud of and grateful for all the hard work they have everyone has put in, through what has been a testing time for everyone all. This Ofsted report validates our efforts as we continue to provide opportunities for individuals of all ages and abilities, to better their lives through learning.”

Looking ahead to a potential full inspection, Carole is feeling confident in her team’s ability to shine once again, “The results of this monitoring visit are really encouraging and demonstrate that we are in a strong position to retain a ‘Good’ grade and strive for that ‘Outstanding’ status I know we are capable of.”

The full report can be accessed via the Ofsted website https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/provider/31/130851.