Staff and students are celebrating as New College Durham is the only college in the North East to be awarded a ‘Strong’ skills rating from Ofsted.

An overall rating of ‘Good’ with ‘Outstanding’ Personal Development and consistently ‘Good’ for all other judgement areas completed a glowing report from the education watchdog.

This September, Ofsted introduced enhanced inspections for colleges which include an assessment of how well they are contributing to addressing skills gaps in the local, regional and national economy. Inspectors rate the skills contribution section as either limited, reasonable or strong. New College Durham is the only college in the North East, and only the third college across the whole UK, to be awarded the ‘Strong’ rating.

Andy Broadbent, Principal and CEO of New College Durham, said: “We are incredibly proud to be the only college in the region to be rated as ‘Strong’ in meeting skills needs. Stakeholder engagement has been a key strategic focus for the College over the last two years and we are delighted that the report recognises not only the strong intent, but also how embedded this is in everything we do and the impact we are having in effectively meeting the skills needs of the region. The ‘Strong’ rating for skills alongside the overall rating of ‘Good’ sends a strong message to all our stakeholders. Our vision is to be a leading provider of Further and Higher Education in the North East and this report provides a strong level of assurance to students, parents, employers and wider stakeholders that we are preparing learners with the appropriate skills, knowledge and behaviours required to succeed in employment.”

Andy continued: “Ofsted recognised the importance of the college’s work with employers to understand the skills needs of the local, regional and national economy and appreciated the immense benefits to learners when employers are involved in the design and implementation of the curriculum. The report also acknowledges that the college ensures the curriculum is planned and taught effectively, so learners and apprentices gain the skills they need to succeed

The Ofsted inspection of New College Durham was carried out between 15 and 18 November 2022.

Feedback from the lead inspector contained many outstanding features including a statement confirming ‘a really consistent and solid strong profile’.

The report highlighted a range of areas where the college was outstanding including a comprehensive enrichment programme that helps learners discover their interests and talents beyond their main programme of study, well qualified and experienced teaching staff and the provision of impartial careers advice and guidance at different stages of learning. The report also commended the significant improvement in the quality of teaching on functional skills courses.

Inspectors praised the behaviour of learners in lessons and communal areas stating they are ‘respectful, polite and courteous. It was noted that learners participated well in lessons and feel valued and listened to during the many, high-quality interactions that they have with college staff.

Speaking about the rating of ‘Outstanding’ for Personal Development, Deputy Principal Alison Maynard commented: “This is a fantastic achievement for the college following two years of intense focus on this area. Being rated as outstanding in this area confirms the college supports the promotion of equality and diversity, and acknowledges our learners take part in a full and varied set of experiences and have access to high-quality support. Above all, it highlights that our learners are well prepared for their next steps and successfully achieve their aspirations and goals whether they wish to progress to employment, move to the next level in education or upskill in their current career.”

Alison continued: “Our overall Good rating strengthens our position as a provider of high quality further and higher education. We will continue to work tirelessly to ensure our learners get the very best education that we can provide.”

Andy Broadbent recognised the role New College Durham staff played in achieving such an impressive report. He said: “Our staff have worked extremely hard during turbulent times. They have shown dedication and consistently go above and beyond to deliver for our students. We have seen curriculum areas change, progress and respond to the challenges in recent years, with some areas transforming their provision. We would like to thank both staff and Governors for their support over recent years.”

The work of staff and students is supported further by investment in New College Durham’s campus. Andy continues: “As a college we work hard to ensure our facilities are of the highest quality and reflective of the workplace, not only as it is today, but considering the workplace of the future through the inclusion of the most up-to-date and highest specification industry standard equipment. We make significant investments to expand our campus to enable us to grow our provision in line with our local industry skills need and to deliver a first class education, to ensure positive outcomes for learners.”