Further education college bumps up its Ofsted rating after controversial merger
PUBLISHED: 14:50 12 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:11 12 March 2020
A Suffolk college has managed to bump up its Ofsted rating from “requires improvement” to “good” after a controversial merger with a local sixth form.
East Coast College (ECC), which has branches in Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth, received a glowing report from Ofsted which commended their approach to improving student's academic attainment, behaviour and relationship with teachers.
In May 2018, Ofsted criticised the Further Education (FE) college for 'undemanding teaching', 'low expectations' and insufficient welfare services.
However, the merger with Lowestoft Sixth Form went ahead in August of that year, despite strikes from teachers who feared redundancies and changes in teaching methods.
New principal Stuart Rimmer had at that time suggested 'the merger would bring together, for our community, strengths in both academic and technical learning.'
And according to this Ofsted report, published March 12, for the most part this is true.
Inspectors applauded the way in which students 'participate fully in college life and develop effective leadership skills', as well as 'enjoying a specialist and up-to-date curriculum developed in partnership with local employers'.
In a statement, the college said: 'We have bucked the national trend as other FE colleges around the UK have struggled to perform well following a merger.
'Under the guidance of CEO Stuart Rimmer, ECC has truly flourished.'
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They also added that the school has 'the highest performing sixth form in the region, the largest STEM provision, the strongest employer links and the widest choice of degrees taught in our towns'.
Just last month, two ECC students landed their dream jobs as apprentices with the Global Wind Service.
Mike Burrows, Chair of Governors, said: 'We are delighted that Ofsted have rated East Coast College as good.It provides a tremendous boost for our staff, learners and the whole community.'
But there were still areas for improvement.
One of the concerns expressed by Ofsted in 2018 was over the way in which apprentices had practical skills but little theoretical knowledge - and another was a lack of focus on general mathematics and English skills.
Both remained points for concern in the most recent Ofsted report.
However, the college is soon to benefit from £10m worth of investment from the government for their new Energy Skills Centre, which is aimed at effectively training up students to 'support the future needs of our energy sector'.
Shelia Oxtoby, CEO of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said: 'This is excellent news for the borough, and very timely given our focus on education and skills as part of our town investment plan.'