Brighton and Hove, United Kingdom
About Varndean College
Varndean College is an increasingly successful and popular sixth form college based in Brighton with approximately 1800 students aged 16 to 19 years. In the evenings it opens its doors to the community to offer a wide range of adult education courses. It also provides Family and Community Learning at several outreach centres within the City.
The College draws largely from the Brighton and Hove school catchment area, but also from further afield throughout East and West Sussex. A smaller number of students come from the independent sector and from overseas, the latter for which we have a thriving International Department. This all makes for a lively and cosmopolitan mix of students.
Varndean’s mission is ‘through the quality of its provision and support for a diverse community, to encourage and inspire all its students to fulfil their potential’.
Curriculum and Achievement
Varndean College specialises in the provision of academic and general vocational education to the 16-19 age group. At Level 3, it offers over 30 A level subjects alongside a wide range of vocational qualifications. Varndean is the only state-funded sixth form college in the area to be selected as an International Baccalaureate World School offering the prestigious and popular IB Diploma Programme. In addition, at Level 2 about 200 students follow various vocational courses and a range of core GCSEs.
In addition to examination courses and tutorial work, a broad programme of enrichment activities is available to students, including sporting activities, art, drama, music, political and environmental issues, work experience and volunteering. There is an extensive range of day, residential and international trips, as well as good support for students to organise their own clubs and societies. A thriving Student Union enables students to contribute to the development and improvement of the College as well as the organisation of social and fund-raising activities.
The College has a distinguished record of achievement over a number of years. In 2019 the A level pass rate was 98.1% with half of our students obtaining A* and B grades and 72% achieving A*-C grades. Two-thirds of subjects achieved 100% pass rate. Students on the International Baccalaureate programme achieved some of the best results in the UK with an average score of 35.5 points over the last 5 years. Success rates and high grades for vocational courses are similarly high. We are particularly proud of the fact that, at Varndean College, students do significantly better than expected, based on their GCSE results.
Students leave Varndean College as well-rounded, confident and aspirational individuals, ready to move on to the next stage in their careers. Over 50% progress on to higher education courses at the UK’s top universities and many direct into apprenticeships and employment.
Ofsted Inspection 2018
An Ofsted inspection in October 2018 confirmed Varndean once again as a good college. Inspectors comment that:
• Governors, leaders and managers have developed a highly inclusive culture that allows staff and students to thrive.
• Teachers know their students well. They have high expectations and use their own experiences and expertise to motivate students to achieve.
• Students benefit from a broad and balanced curriculum that meets their individual needs.
• Students enjoy their learning, maintain excellent behaviour and are highly cooperative.
• The vast majority of students produce work of a high standard. Students on the International Baccalaureate produce work of exceptional quality.
• Students with high needs receive very good support and make good progress. They achieve their qualifications and move to the next stage of learning or to employment.
The College staff numbered 225 in June 2019, consisting of 116 full and part-time teachers and 106 full and part-time support staff, plus an additional 37 Adult Education tutors.
Curriculum subjects are organised into five areas each led by a Head of School, with two Assistant Heads of School. Programme Leaders are responsible for individual subject areas within the schools. Teaching staff are supported by departmental technicians, IT technicians and administrative staff. The Additional Support Team provides in-class support and individual support to students. Support staff teams include HR, Finance, IT, Marketing, Registry and Site Maintenance. There are extensive opportunities for professional development and effective processes for induction of new staff.
Support and Guidance
In addition to the support through their academic courses, tutors provide regular one to one meetings to monitor progress and support students’ progress. There is excellent additional learning support, including general support for learning difficulties, more intensive support for students with EHC plans and a wellbeing service. Students have comprehensive guidance and support on careers and higher education. Varndean works in close partnership with parents. Parents have access to an online tracking system, receive regular updates on student progress, attend a series of parent’s evening and are contacted whenever necessary. The college is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of young people and expects all staff to share this commitment.
Accommodation and Facilities
The College’s attractive building is situated on an impressive site at the head of a large green campus just 10 minutes’ drive from Brighton city centre, with good public transport links both by bus and rail. A regular bus service stops outside the College gates and Preston Park railway station is approximately a 15 min walk away. The College boasts outstanding views to the south over the city and to the sea.
The College’s facilities include:
• Brand new £2.9m STEM Centre (opening in April 2020)
• Library & Careers Centre
• Open Access IT facilities, dedicated IT-based teaching rooms and networked computer access in all classrooms
• Canteen serving hot meals, salads and snacks
• Fitness suite (available for staff and student use)
• Free on-site parking for staff
• Extensive playing fields for organised sports
Through the quality of its provision and support for a diverse community, Varndean College aims to encourage and inspire all its students to fulfil their potential.-