Newly-formed college group earns highest grade after Ofsted visit

Accrington and Rossendale College has made ‘significant progress’ in raising the standards of learners’ and apprentices’ education under the new Nelson and Colne College Group, according to Ofsted.

After a monitoring visit in October, Ofsted inspectors graded three key areas of provision as having made ‘significant progress’ – the highest achievable grade – within a year of the colleges becoming a merged institution. Ofsted praised the colleges’ commitment to improving standards in the provision areas of apprenticeships and GCSE English and Mathematics.

Nelson and Colne College has been rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted since 2005, and the monitoring visit was a requirement post-merger. The themes of the monitoring visit were selected from the areas for improvement identified at the previous inspection of Accrington and Rossendale College in 2018, prior to the merger, when the institution was rated as ‘good’.

In the view of the lead inspector, significant progress has been made in improving the quality of education that apprentices receive on their training programmes, on improving learners’ and apprentices’ knowledge in English and Mathematics, and the effectiveness of teachers and assessors in using learning assessments so that all learners and apprentices can achieve their potential. Reasonable progress has been made in making sure that apprentices have an appropriate understanding of the dangers of radicalisation and extremism.

The colleges are among the first in the country to be inspected under Ofsted’s new stringent and rigorous Education Inspection Framework. A full inspection will take place in due course.

Principal Amanda Melton said: “I’m utterly delighted that we have managed to achieve significant progress in the three of four key areas of inspection. This is a remarkable achievement in the short space of time since the merger.

“As a combined institution, we are a Maths and English College, as these are the two qualifications students require to progress and improve life chances. To have our curriculum acknowledged and endorsed in this way is extremely satisfying.

“Equally, apprenticeships are an incredibly important aspect of the college offer, providing a pipeline of young skilled talent for employers and the economy locally, regionally and beyond. Again, to have our provision positively recognised by Ofsted is very encouraging.

“We still have work to go, and I am confident that we will continue to progress over the months ahead. I would like to take this opportunity to thank colleagues from across the College Group for their tireless work that went into this, in particular to the English and Maths teams, and the Apprenticeship Team who were under the microscope during inspection, and other teams who supported this significant achievement.”

On the question of apprenticeship provision, the inspector stated: “Leaders and managers have worked hard since the merger of the two colleges to improve the standard of training that apprentices receive. They have nurtured very effective links with industry specialists. Managers and staff use their local intelligence about the health sector to develop and put in place very effective learning programmes. They use innovative ways to develop and plan the curriculum.”

Regarding the issue of improving learners’ and apprentices’ knowledge in English and Mathematics, the inspector said: “Since the merger of the two colleges, leaders have prioritised the improvement in the English and Mathematics curriculum. This strategy ensures that all learners and apprentices benefit from extended time with teachers to develop these important skills. Leaders work closely with other outstanding colleges in the region and local schools to improve further the quality of education in English and Mathematics.”

And in response to the effectiveness of teachers and assessors using learning assessments so that all learners and Apprentices can achieve their potential, the inspector stated: “They use the results of these assessments to plan an ambitious learning programme. As a result, many learners and apprentices receive a rich experience at college. They learn new knowledge that will support them in their next steps of learning or future careers.”

Accrington and Rossendale College is a top 10 college in the country for 16-18 learner achievement at Level 3 and for 16-18 timely apprenticeship completions. The college campus is currently undergoing a major £4m redevelopment including improved study zones, a transformed student Refectory, new industry-standard Hair and Beauty salons, a revamp of the college’s acclaimed construction department, and significant landscaping.

If you would like to apply to study at Accrington and Rossendale College, please contact 01254 389933 or visit www.accross.ac.uk. To study at Nelson and Colne College, contact 01282 440272 or visit www.nelson.ac.uk.