Third of colleges rated 'outstanding'

`Excellent' progress attributed to action on student performance data

Joseph Lee

Nearly a third of all colleges are now rated outstanding, after the numbers earning top marks in inspections soared last year.

Ofsted's annual report shows 32 per cent of colleges were given the top rating in the past year, compared to 19 per cent the year before.

It means that 71 per cent of colleges are now rated as good or outstanding, widening the gap in performance between colleges and schools, where 63 per cent make the top grades.

And the quality of teaching has been judged to be good or outstanding in 75 per cent of colleges.

Inspectors attributed the success to colleges' careful monitoring of data on student performance, particularly disparities in achievement between male and female students or different ethnic groups, to identify and address areas of concern.

In the best colleges, inspectors said that progress was "excellent", with students achieving higher grades than was predictable from their previous attainment.

Sixth form colleges were singled out for praise, with half of those inspected earning outstanding ratings and inspectors saying they "continue to be highly effective".

Following criticism last year that not enough was being done to ensure "coasting" colleges improved, the proportion with a satisfactory rating fell to under a quarter.

But inspectors said that half of those satisfactory colleges showed little sign of improvement.

Christine Gilbert, Ofsted's chief inspector, said: "This report leaves me encouraged by the recognition that so much is going well for so many children, young people and adult learners, but frustrated that there is still too much that is patently inadequate and too many instances where the rate of improvement is unacceptably slow."

Seven FE colleges are rated inadequate, compared to four last year, but this still represents less than 2 per cent of the total.

Inspectors said: "In the few cases in which standards and achievement are inadequate, colleges fail to set realistic and challenging targets or measure themselves critically against national averages. Improvements are frequently judged too generously by managers and not enough note is taken of national trends and benchmarks."

Inspectors also said that colleges were adapting well to government demands to engage with employers.

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Joseph Lee

Joseph Lee is an award-winning freelance education journalist 

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