The Activate Learning group of colleges have been praised for equipping students with the skills needed for successful employment, following an inspection by Ofsted. The report highlights that students develop valuable employability skills thanks to high quality teaching and learning, a focus on enterprise and effective use of the latest technology. It awards the colleges – Reading College, City of Oxford College and Banbury and Bicester College – an overall rating of good with a number of areas rated outstanding (the highest possible grade). During the visit in December, the inspection team found there to be high quality teaching and learning, strong leadership and “outstanding challenge and support” from the governing body. Courses in hospitality and catering and programmes for those with learning difficulties and disabilities, were found to be “outstanding”. The report finds that:

  • teaching and learning is a major strength
  • learners make good progress and develop valuable employability skills
  • teachers motivate learners well
  • classrooms and workshops buzz with activity
  • staff have well developed, productive links with employers
  • learners participate fully in the life of the colleges
  • senior leaders promote a culture of high expectations
  • IT is plentiful and well used

The percentage of lessons judged to be good or outstanding during the inspection was 89%, well above the 69% average for the sector, as recorded by Ofsted last year. Sally Dicketts, chief executive of Activate Learning, said: “We believe that learning programmes must equip students with contemporary, real-world skills required for successful employment. “That can only be achieved by working in partnership with employers, developing teaching staff who are experts in their field and ensuring students have access to new technologies and commercial environments. “I am delighted that the inspection team recognised the strength of our links with employers and with industry and their effectiveness in improving our students’ employability. “Our approach is to work with each individual, to understand their needs and aspirations and develop personalised programmes to help them on their chosen career pathway. We aim to help develop the whole person, rather than simply deliver qualifications and we do that by working in collaboration. “This report verifies the huge amount of work put in by our teaching and management teams, and by the students themselves, to help people make the most of their time at college and make the best possible start to their futures.” The group was previously inspected as Oxford & Cherwell Valley College in 2008 when it was also judged to be ‘good’. A full copy of the inspection report can be found here.

The following quotes are taken from the report:

  • Overall grade rating for teaching, learning and assessment = grade 2 (good)
  • Teachers plan their lessons well and many ensure that learners understand how activities link to previous learning and what they need to achieve today.
  • Teachers monitor learners’ progress through most lessons well and assess them regularly.
  • Learners make good progress and develop valuable employability skills in a safe, welcoming environment
  • Teachers motivate learners well through a wide variety of activities which develop learners’ independence and successfully extend their knowledge, skills and understanding
  • Many classrooms and workshops buzz with activity
  • Staff have well developed, productive links with employers and other organisations, which lead to learners gaining good entrepreneurial skills
  • Learners participate fully in the life of the colleges, develop good communication skills and collaborate well with each other
  • Senior leaders promote a culture of high expectations and encourage innovation and experimentation among staff, which are having an impact on improving students’ learning
  • Information technology (IT) resources are plentiful and exceptionally well used in many curriculum areas