It’s the last day of term at Redbridge Institute in East London. The adult learners in one of the teaching assistant classes have prepared a feast to share with their peers. And they've purchased a cake for their teacher, adorned with the message “best teacher and TA” in chocolate, cursive letters.
The excitement is palpable, so much so that the teacher, teasingly, asks the group to “please calm down”. But would you expect anything less from an adult and community learning provider that was officially branded as “fun” by Ofsted in a recent glowing inspection report, in which Ofsted rated Redbridge Institute as "outstanding" in all areas.
“Teachers have extremely high expectations of their learners, their enthusiasm to pass on their knowledge to learners is infectious and lessons are fun,” the report reads.
Read more: Tes FE Awards 2019 winners crowned
More news: Ofsted rates Redbridge Institute 'outstanding'
This was a sentiment shared by the judges of the Tes FE Awards 2019, who said the institute “proved you can put the fun back into learning”. They were unanimous in naming Redbridge Institute as both the adult and community learning provider of the year and overall provider of the year.
Redbridge Institute operates across 50 locations and supports around 4,000 learners. It offers a range of courses from maths and English to pottery and jewellery-making.
When Tes visited, there was no shortage of students volunteering a ringing endorsement of how the provider has helped them to succeed – or, indeed, offering to share some of their delicious food.
“It makes us more confident,” said one learner, who is studying English for speakers of other languages (Esol). “We’re not scared any more in case someone asks us something in the shops. This is our country now – we have to learn the language. It is very important.”
'Teachers work really hard'
Joni Cunningham, the principal, said it was the hard work of staff that had led to the institute's success. “There’s no way you can succeed if you don’t have brilliant staff like we have got.”
Winning the Overall Provider of the Year Award was “amazing for staff”, she added.
“These awards are an endorsement of our staff and their practice. They are just over the moon, it’s a recognition of their hard work. All teachers work really hard. It’s a tough job – to meet the individual needs to every learner – but our staff are absolutely committed.”
'Skills and confidence'
“We are very ambitious for our learners and we want to help them on their learning journeys," Ms Cunningham added.
When it comes to helping unemployed learners, Ms Cunningham said the institute helped to give them “the skills and confidence they need to get into work”, adding: “If we weren’t here, I don’t know where people would get these skills.”
She continued: “Our own learners are amazing role models. They are encouraged to see that working hard and trying for that next step will lead to success.
“It’s such an inclusive environment with a huge mix of people and a respect for diversity.”