Following a full inspection in November 2021 from Ofsted, Buckinghamshire College Group has been awarded an overall effectiveness grade of “Good”, it’s first as a merged college following its formation in 2017. A large team of inspectors visited campuses in Aylesbury, Amersham and Wycombe to meet students, staff and observe lessons. They graded the College in eight key areas finding it to be “Good” in all but one type of provision.
During their visit inspectors found that “Students and apprentices benefit from a harmonious environment across the three college campuses. Students are highly respectful of each other’s diverse views and backgrounds. They are keen to learn and most respond to the high behaviour expectations set by staff by attending all their lessons punctually.”.
When observing teaching and learning Inspectors found:
Well qualified staff use their vocational experience to plan and teach most lessons effectively.
Teachers in most subjects help students to secure the knowledge, skills and key concepts they need for their future learning. They frequently revisit topics and use questioning effectively so that students and apprentices practise and consolidate their learning. […] As a result, students and apprentices become increasingly confident and competent in their chosen subjects of study.
Apprentices and Adult students’ progress was scrutinised where Ofsted remarked:
In vocational subjects, students and apprentices develop their technical understanding and practical skills quickly.
Adult students develop new knowledge and skills that prepare then well to move on to further study or into employment.
Teachers support apprentices and students in vocational subjects to develop the numeracy and literacy skills they need for their roles and future careers.
Apprentices gain useful practical skills that enable them to become more effective in the employees in the workplace.
The College was recognised for the way it prepares its students for entering their relevant industries through work experience and increasing their knowledge:
Students make good use of relevant work experience opportunities to develop their understanding of the industry they are interested in. For example, students in information technology complete useful placements with ethical hackers and web developers. As a result, they become more competent and confident in the skills and knowledge they need to work in that industry. […]
Most students take part in a wide range of valuable activities which help them develop skills that complement their studies well and increase their industry knowledge. These prepare students well for employment or further study in their field of choice. For example, plumbing students visit groundwork installations. Art and design students use recycled materials to produce work on a range of environmental topics, such as the protection of turtles. This also develops their awareness of climate change.
The ambition of the College and its focus on the needs of employers was acknowledged:
Leaders and managers have a clear and carefully considered rationale for most of the courses they offer. They work closely with local and regional employers to ensure that their courses meet local and regional job market needs and increase employment opportunities for students. For example, they have introduced courses in special effects make-up, prosthetics and film production in response to shortages in the film industry. Leaders discuss and plan the social care curriculum with local employers, such as the Buckinghamshire Health Care Trust, so that students develop the relevant skills they need to gain employment in the sector.
Upon receiving the report College Principal, Karen Mitchell said:
I am really pleased that in our first full inspection as a merged College Ofsted have recognised the significant progress and found that our students across all campuses benefit from a good learning and student experience that supports career, further and higher study progression. I would like to thank governors, staff and students for their hard work and efforts in achieving this fantastic result. We will continue to build on these findings in our ambition to be an outstanding further education college for Buckinghamshire.
Chair of Governors, Max Hailey added:
The Governors are delighted that OFSTED have recognised the amount of hard work that has gone into making Buckinghamshire College Group a strong further education provider for the whole of the county and I would like to thank all the staff and students for this great result. It has been a really exciting journey so far which is set to continue as we move forward with our expansion plans and invest for future generations with a brand new state of the art campus in High Wycombe.
Ofsted’s report does include some areas the College now needs to improve which includes increasing student attendance rates and having higher aspirations for students with high needs. This was acknowledged by the Principal:
We recognise that there are further improvements that we can make to our student experience in our journey to be an outstanding college and have taken on board the feedback from Ofsted. We are committed to providing an outstanding learning experience for all our students and will continue to work hard to achieve this.
The report can be read in full on the Ofsted website.