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Cumbrian college named UK leader

Principal Cherry Tingle with jubilant UTC students. Photo Tom Kay

A GROUNDBREAKING Cumbrian college has bucked national trends to become a UK leader with an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted report.

Cherry Tingle, head of Workington-based Energy Coast University Technical College (UTC) described the achievement as exceptional, with the outstanding classification spanning every single area of inspection.

With 40 percent of the 14 to 19-year-old students on free school meals and classified as disadvantaged, the industry-backed institution has clinched top marks across the board.

A delighted Ms Tingle, who took over the helm in September 2016, said it was a very significant judgement and that everyone involved with UTC was over the moon with the highest possible classification.

She explained: “Under the latest Ofsted framework, we are the first college of its kind to achieve this. It is rare to see such a steep trajectory of gains from our previous ‘requires improvement’ grading.”

Inspectors said Ms Tingle had ‘systematically and very skilfully developed high-quality leadership skills in all school leaders and managers’. Student results, teaching, employer links and behaviour were all said to be outstanding.

The report praised an ethos where pupils’ aspirations were the best they could be and pointed to a transformation in attitudes once they joined the college thanks to ‘excellent support and guidance’.

Ms Tingle said: “When I started, there was a range of problems, from results to the need for improvement in every area. My mantra was, and still is, everything has to be ‘good enough for my child’.

“There’s enormous satisfaction going from there to becoming one of the highest performing UTCs in the country.”

Industry partners include construction giants Morgan Sindall Infrastructure, Iggesund, Sellafield, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Jacobs and Nuvia. Over 90 percent of students go into apprenticeships in engineering and civil engineering, compared to the national average of just 10 percent.

Alongside excellent GCSEs and A-levels, students gain professional technical qualifications, skills and essential work experience.

Ofsted commended an excellent technical education, highlighting work experience with national and international companies based in west Cumbria. It also hailed sixth formers’ success in securing superior jobs and training.

Ms Tingle explained: “Our young people, described in the report as mature and respectful, routinely achieve excellent academic results and extended work experience. All students study employability skills and work with employers every week on real projects.

“At 16, they will have three practical engineering GCSE-level qualifications alongside English, maths and science. Eighteen-year-olds will have one or two A-level engineering qualifications in addition to mainstream subjects.

“I’m thrilled by the report, but not surprised. What goes on here is extraordinary, but it’s happening every single day. It is absolutely the norm that we expect – and get – a high degree of commitment and excellent levels of achievement.”

The 300 students mainly come from areas in or around Workington, Whitehaven, Maryport, Dearham, Cockermouth and Egremont.

Nationally, only four percent of schools where above 25 percent of students are eligible for free school meals (FSM) are judged to be outstanding.

“Our percentage of FSMs is 40,” said Ms Tingle. “And, of the country’s 54 UTCs, only one other is classed as outstanding.

“Employment levels are high. Six of Sellafield’s nationally offered recent degree apprenticeships went to our students. Iggesund Paperboard’s intake was all ours, while construction and regeneration company, Morgan Sindall Infrastructure mostly recruited our young people.

“At a normal secondary school, pupils are expected to make three grades progress in five years. Here, they make on average almost three grades in just two years. FSM students make better progress than non-FSMs nationally.

“However, there will be no resting on laurels and we will be striving to get even better.

“We want to help address the area’s skills shortages and boost both county and country with our talent, flair and ambition. Thanks to the outstanding Ofsted rating, our reputation has been deservedly well and truly reinforced.”

Sellafield’s head of education and skills, Dr Donna Connor, said: “We offer the warmest congratulations to the whole UTC team for this outstanding success and are proud to be part of a leading educational phenomenon.

“Developing work ready science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) young people will bring long-standing benefits to us, the area, region and country for generations to come.”

Trudy Harrison, MP for Copeland, said: “Many of the students are from my constituency. I take my hat off to each and every one of them and can’t praise highly enough the skills of Cherry Tingle and her fantastic team. You are credit to us all.”

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