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South Cheshire smiles

A further education college graded as outstanding by inspectors in 13 out of 16 areas was this week declared "the best college in the country".

South Cheshire college in Crewe has been awarded more grade ones for outstanding provision than any other in the UK.

It achieved the top grade in 10 out of 13 curriculum areas and received additional outstanding ratings for leadership and management, student support and for inclusion policies.

Its three remaining curriculum areas were awarded grade two, with inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) and the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) judging them to be good.

It is the best performance by any inspected college to date, overtaking Bridgewater college in Somerset which was awarded 10 top grades when it was inspected two years ago.

David Sherlock, ALI's chief inspector, said: "It really is wonderful to see a college doing so well. To achieve 13 grade ones makes this college one of the best, if not the best, in the country.

"The principal, David Collins, has proved himself to be an inspirational leader with a highly motivated team of staff. I would like to congratulate them all for offering such high quality teaching to so many learners in South Cheshire."

Dr Collins said: "I am obviously delighted with these results which place us right at the top of the colleges providing FE in this country.

"Our emphasis is on quality and on trying to be the best. We look at other colleges to see what they are doing better than us and incorporate it here, so many colleges have contributed to our success whether they know it or not."

The inspection report, published today, praised the teaching at the college. It said: "Teachers are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and have high expectations of their students. They create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning.

"For the college as a whole, 84 per cent of observed lessons have good or better teaching and 82 per cent have good or better learning. The college provides excellent value for money."

South Cheshire is described as a tertiary college, but 8,600 of its 11,200 students are aged 19 and over, making it similar to general FE colleges.

The college, located on a single campus, offers courses in 12 of the 14 areas of learning funded by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

Inspectors award five grades when assessing colleges. Grade one is outstanding, two is good, three is satisfactory, four is unsatisfactory, and five is weak.

Only three of the 275 general FE colleges in the UK have been awarded a grade one for leadership and management.

They are Barnfield in Luton, Knowsley in Liverpool, and Warwickshire in Leamington Spa. Barnfield collected six grade ones, Knowsley four, and Warwickshire two.

Three other tertiary colleges, Bridgewater, Alton in Hampshire, and Truro in Cornwall have also been awarded grade ones for leadership and management. Alton, which provides predominantly sixth-form provision, gained five grade ones, and Truro got nine.

Among the 100 sixth-form colleges in the UK, grade ones are more prevalent.

No fewer than 13 have received grade ones for leadership and management.

Hills Road college in Cambridge was awarded 10 out of 10 grade ones, and Greenhead college in Huddersfield collected 10 out of 11 outstanding ratings.

David Bell, Ofsted's chief inspector, said: "South Cheshire college should be congratulated for providing an outstanding quality of education and training to its students. Teaching and learning is excellent, the leadership and management of the college is inspiring, staff are highly motivated and well-informed and learners benefit from high pass rates."

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