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Christian college gets small sermon

Government inspectors have praised teaching at a Tyneside city technology college which has a Christian foundation, but they say pupils must be given more opportunities to discuss their personal values.

They claimed religious education lessons at the Pounds 8 million Emmanuel CTC in Gateshead were sometimes slow and were too often teacher-dominated. While the college met the statutory requirements on collective worship and assemblies were quiet and disciplined, tutor groups with Bible readings and prayers were generally perfunctory and less than satisfactory.

Inspectors said that during their week-long investigation, which took place at the end of last year, pupils were given relatively few opportunities to articulate and discuss their personal values.

"In this respect the college is not meeting fully its stated intention 'to allow students the freedom to come to their own decisions' as to how to respond to the Bible and Christ," they said.

In an otherwise good report, the 13 inspectors stated that generally opportunities for pupils to take responsibility and make decisions were not as broad or ambitious as they should be.

They called for a wider range of teaching styles to give pupils more responsibility for their learning and allow the more able ones to develop their potential more fully.

John Burn, principal, said the college intended to "react positively" to the recommendations and added: "We will do all that we can to raise standards even higher. We are proud of our Christian foundation and of our traditional approach to discipline. While we are committed to a hands-on approach to learning, we have a firm belief that teachers should teach and not just sit back and let things happen."

According to the inspectors, the quality of learning was sound or better in 91 per cent of lessons at Emmanuel, which takes pupils of all abilities from more than 80 primary schools .

The percentage of 14-year-olds achieving level 6 or above in science, mathematics and English compared well nationally and was significantly better than the percentages reached by other CTCs. High standards were noted in information technology at key stage 3 and in science at key stage 4.

Standards achieved by pupils with special educational needs were good, but the more able pupils were not always reaching their full potential.

The inspectors noted that the college, which opened four years ago, was well-managed, that many staff had business or industrial experience and that pupils were caring, unselfish, co-operative and enthusiastic.

But they added: "There were a number of lessons where a lack of excitement and curiosity was noticeable, often resulting from too much teacher-direction, and others were there were limited opportunities for discussion and group work. "

Staffing costs at Pounds 1.5m were high relative to the total college budget of Pounds 2.26m. The amount spent per student on educational resources was Pounds 333.56.

The college had firm, purposeful leadership and resources were adequately managed, the inspectors said. "Against this background the college gives value for money," they added.

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