Great Yarmouth College feeling “quietly confident” ahead of crucial Ofsted inspection

Just 15 months ago it had hit rock bottom, but with its next Ofsted inspection imminent Great Yarmouth College is feeling 'quietly confident' it will have made a dramatic improvement.

In November 2010, the vocational college was labelled inadequate in a raft of areas from leadership to the quality of its offering.

Rachel Moore, who handles communications for the college, said: 'The college had lost direction. The staff were demoralised, they felt unsupported. We were a failing college.'

But just over a year later, the same group of staff – minus 22 lost to redundancies to help balance the books – are preparing for their inspection next month with a sense of optimism.

Principal Penny Wycherley, who delayed her retirement to come in and help transform the Suffolk Road site, said she was 'quietly confident' the college would gain a 'satisfactory' rating this time around. She said: 'To go from the level of inadequate the college was at, to satisfactory is a big, big jump.

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'I'm quietly confident it will be satisfactory. But I'm also quietly hoping there might be a bit more than that. I'm hoping there might be some 'good' areas in there.'

The principal is keen to stress it has been the staff who have brought about the changes.

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She said: 'I came here because I met some staff and they made me believe they could do it. I don't do no-hopers.

'The single most important thing is that they have focused on learners, on the students. They have focused on making sure the students are on the right courses.'

Mrs Wycherley said the college had the data to prove to Ofsted it had made rapid improvements – from a student survey showing 93pc of learners now said they felt safe, up from 73pc last year, to higher-than average retention rates and good levels of achievement.

But she said the site was capable of further improvement and she hoped it would eventually reach an outstanding level.

The principal said the college was in a complicated area with the highest percentage of teenage pregnancies in Europe and lowest rate of progression through to university in England.

But she was convinced there were also great opportunities available.

She said: 'It is a particularly deprived area. There is a lot to be done here. But at the same time we have got the growth of the energy industry, the changes in the tourism industry, and an elderly population that needs care. It's a fantastic opportunity to make a difference.'

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