The successful merger of Furness College and Barrow Sixth Form College has been highly praised by Ofsted inspectors who have rated it as a ‘good’ college in a report out today.
The college, which merged as one college with campuses at Channelside and Rating Lane three years ago, is among the first in the country to be inspected as a merged college.
Inspectors said the college had merged ‘effectively and sensitively’ and as a result the quality of education for students had improved across the board.
They said learners and apprentices had support to achieve their goals, behaviour was good and students had a positive attitude towards learning with high aspirations for their future careers.
They also said leaders and managers used their links with local employers to continually develop the curriculum to meet local and regional industry needs. In addition, they said tutors used their professional and industrial experience successfully to help students develop high-level skills.
Principal and chief executive Andrew Wren said: “We are delighted to receive a good rating for our college but even more pleased with the highly positive comments in the report that show us to be the beating heart of education in our community.
“The merger means we are now the largest college in Cumbria with a specialist sixth form and the widest choice of courses so to receive such high praise on the improvements to the quality of education from Ofsted following the merger is excellent news for our staff and our students.
“It is particularly rewarding that they also commented on the caring culture of the college which reflects our people-centred ethos, which is in everything we do. We are now focused on the future to continue our improvement plan and achieve an outstanding grade.”
Inspectors also praised the ‘significant investment’ in high-quality equipment and resources for students. Mr Wren said this follows on from an outstanding grade earlier this month from the Education and Skills Funding Agency, the national body for education funding, which shows the college is in strong financial health for future generations of learners.
They identified the high-quality on and off the job training for apprentices that helps develop their skills, in particular maths skills, and said the apprentices make a valuable contribution to the workplace. They outlined some areas of apprenticeships to improve, which the college welcomed.
Mr Wren said: “We had identified areas to improve a couple of years ago and it takes time for the improvements to come through. We are pleased that Ofsted recognises the progress we have made making changes to our apprenticeship programmes and we are looking forward to seeing them come to fruition.”
Furness College, in Barrow, offers a wide choice of qualifications from A Levels and apprenticeships to vocational courses and university degrees.
Inspectors noted that governors were ambitious for the students and worked closely with the college leaders and managers to help learners achieve their goals.
Chair of Governors Caroline Vernon said: “This glowing Ofsted report is a real testament to the hard work of our professional and caring staff and a tribute to our excellent students. This town has a college of which we can rightly be very proud.”