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Suffolk: Suffolk New College rated ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted inspectors

PUBLISHED: 11:20 30 June 2014 | UPDATED: 11:20 30 June 2014

Josh Merritt, outgoing President of the Students Union at Suffolk New College

Josh Merritt, outgoing President of the Students Union at Suffolk New College

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One of Suffolk’s biggest further education colleges has been rated ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted.

Suffolk New College was inspected by the education watchdog in May, resulting in a downgrade from its ‘Good’ rating received in December 2009.

Inspectors said the proportion of students at the college achieving their main qualification in the last academic year remained below the national rate for similar colleges, and the proportion achieving functional skills in English and maths is low.

College Principal Professor Dave Muller said he was “disappointed” by the judgements and that 95% of pupils who achieved their main qualification went on to employment or more education.

Suffolk New College was rated ‘requires improvement’ in all three categories of the Ofsted report: outcomes for learners, quality of teaching, learning and assessment, and effectiveness of leadership and management.

Of the seven subject areas graded by inspectors, engineering, motor vehicle studies, foundation English, foundation mathematics, and business were rated ‘required improvement’ while building and construction and hospitality and catering were rated ‘good’.

“In the majority of subject areas,” the report said, “students’ achievement rates require improvement.”

Students on A-level courses make expected progress, however a “high proportion of AS-level students do not complete their course”.

The report added: “The proportion of students achieving their main qualifications requires improvement. It rose sharply from a low point two years ago, but then remained static last year at a little below the national rate for similar colleges.

“Too many students do not successfully complete functional skills in English and mathematics.”

Inspectors found the quality of teaching, learning and assessment to have improved over the last two years but added that, “a significant minority of teaching still requires improvement, including at subcontracted provision.”

Leadership and management were criticised for failing “to meet a number of key targets regarding outcomes for students in 2012/2013.” However the report added that “the senior leadership team took swift action to identify the reasons and make changes to management and staff in a number of subject areas.”

The behaviour of students at Suffolk New College was praised and the report said that managers “match the range of courses particularly effectively to the skills priorities of the local economy and to the needs of the community.”

Professor Dave Muller said: “We are disappointed by some of Ofsted’s judgements which we believe do not fully reflect the work we do.

“A key outcome is that for the past three years 95% of our students gaining a main qualification have either secured employment or have continued their study in further or higher education.”

He added: “The inspection gave considerable emphasis to both Maths and English which we recognise need further development. We are pleased in the current year over 300 students have gained a GCSE equivalent qualification in maths and a similar number in English. We will work with Ofsted to improve these further.”

Student Union President Josh Merritt said: “I feel that the students are listened to here and that we are encouraged to have a say. As a result, we do feel valued.

“Staff and students are working together to achieve some excellent qualifications and that is what matters. We also enjoy fantastic facilities in a location close to the Waterfront and town centre – it is a great place in which to study.”

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