A COLLEGE which draws 98 per cent of its students from disadvantaged areas has been awarded five top grades for its "outstanding" provision.
Newham Sixth Form College, in London's East End, is located in one of England's poorest boroughs, according to official social and economic indicators.
Nevertheless, art, design and media courses, support for students, general resources, quality assurance, and management have all been judged outstanding by inspectors from the Further Education Funding Council.
Newham's unemployment rate is 11.9 per cent, which is the fifth highest rate among London boroughs and well above the national average of 4.3 per cent for Britain. Although the GCSE pass rate has risen steadily, at 34.6 per cent it is still one of the lowest in England, compared with the national average of 47.9 per cent. The borough is also recognised as one of the most ethnically-diverse local authorities in the country.
Schools in Newham have a high proportion of students with learning difficulties andor disabilities. The college, say the inspectors, meets the needs of all individuals in a challenging yet supportive atmosphere.
Of lessons inspected, 77 per cent were good or outstanding, and only 3 per cent were less thn satisfactory. Students' attendance, identified in an inspection four years ago as an area of concern, is now high. The college "is well led by managers who are open and self-critical".
Newham College was established in 1992 to encourage more young people to stay on in full-time education after 16. The initial plan was for 1,000 students but currently there are more than 1,880 full-timers, and 85 per cent of them are 16 to 18 years old.
In art, design and media, 10 of the 11 lessons observed were good or outstanding. Pass rates of 100 per cent have been regularly achieved on the vocational diplomas in design and in media and last year all the A-level art courses passed.
Support for students is outstanding. In one instance, a student offered a place at dance school was unable to obtain a grant. Staff appealed successfully to the education authority. Now the student has his own dance company and teaches part-time at the college.
Sid Hughes, the principal, said: "What is particularly pleasing about this report is that it confirms our belief that it is possible to attract students of all abilities and then, with excellent teaching, resources and appropriate levels of support, encourage them to achieve their best."