National College with 24 students criticised by Ofsted

National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries received £5.5 million from government when it opened in 2016

The National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries has been rated 'requires improvement'

Three years after opening, one of the government’s flagship National Colleges has been rated "requires improvement" by Ofsted – and has seen its enrolment figures drop from two years ago. 

The National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries, based in Purfleet, Essex, opened in 2016 and was given £5.5 million by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for the construction of new buildings, £500,000 by Creative and Cultural Skills, and £1 million in equipment by industry.  

In the college's first Ofsted report published, it was revealed that the college has just 18 young people and six adult students on roll, along with 81 apprentices. In 2017, the college told Tes that it had 25 students and 86 apprentices attending. 


Background: £120m national colleges beset by low recruitment and delays

More: Government invests £80m in national colleges

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The college was rated "requires improvement" overall, and in four categories: the quality of education, personal development, leadership and management, and apprenticeships. 

The college’s behaviour and attitudes, education programmes for young people and adult learning programmes were all rated as "good". 

The college was started by employers from national creative organisations, with the intention of closing the skills gaps for technical and backstage training in the creative industries.

Ofsted: College 'requires improvement'

In the report, Ofsted criticises the college’s learning coaches for not ensuring that apprentices develop their ICT and English and maths skills to a good standard, and says that the college does not assess all apprentices' starting points in a timely manner to identify what skills they need to improve. 

The report states: “Leaders have not ensured that all learning coaches have the skills and knowledge to coach apprentices to develop the skills they need. A significant minority of learning coaches do not provide good quality learning.

“Leaders have not ensured that learning coaches are trained to support apprentices who have additional support needs in the workplace. Learning coaches do not work with employers to help them identify what reasonable adjustments they need to make for learners with mental health conditions or those on the autistic spectrum. Consequently, they do not help apprentices to develop the strategies they need to cope with the pressures of the industry in which they work.”

However, it does praise the college when it comes to technical skills. The report says that apprentices often work in more than one theatre, and gain a wide range of specialist skills and develop good working relationships with colleagues from other organisations. 

Ofsted highlights five areas of improvement for the provider: 

  • Leaders should ensure that apprentices and their employers understand apprenticeships fully so that they can work effectively together to help apprentices develop new skills, knowledge and behaviours.  
  • Leaders need to ensure that learning coaches understand the apprenticeship standards fully. They need to ensure that apprentices develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.  
  • Leaders need to ensure that learners and apprentices have clear and industry-relevant progression routes from their current levels of study to help them access a wider range of potential career pathways.  
  • Leaders need to ensure that all learning coaches thoroughly assess apprentices’ skills on entry, so they know what ICT, English and mathematics skills apprentices need to develop throughout their programme to succeed in their future career.
  • Leaders need to ensure that learning coaches and employers are better informed of how to support apprentices with a range of learning difficulties and/or disabilities or mental health conditions to make sure that they develop strategies to cope when under pressure.

Sue Dare, Interim principal of the college, which is informally known as the National College Creative Industries, said: “I was pleased that this first Ofsted report highlighted those areas where the National College Creative Industries does really well: the development of good technical skills and knowledge for careers in the creative industries; excellent industry links and networking opportunities; and a strong focus on career progression in to the creative sector.

"We recognise the inconsistencies identified by inspectors and have already established more robust processes to ensure these are addressed in the future. The National College Creative Industries is at an exciting stage with plans to transform the College through the creation of a joint partnership with two sector-specialist organisations: Access Creative College and South Essex College. This new joint venture partnership, NCCI Ltd, will enable us to broaden, deepen and enhance our classroom-based and apprenticeship training to more fully meet the needs of the creative industries sector nationally.”

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a junior FE reporter