SUSSEX Coast College is celebrating this week after receiving a glowing report from education inspectors.
The £100 million complex was commended by Ofsted for radically turning its fortunes around since late 2011.
Back in November that year the college, which has a campus at Station Plaza and in Parker Road, Ore, was judged to be ‘inadequate’ by inspectors after a damning report criticising all aspects, from teaching to management.
The previous principal Janak Patel resigned in December 2011 with Clive Cooke taking over the reins in February 2012.
Following his appointment he pledged to turn the college into a top-rated seat of learning for Hastings.
His words and actions have now been borne out as in a report published today (Friday) Ofsted rated the college as ‘good’, praising the leadership and management as ‘outstanding’.
In the report, Steven Stanley, lead inspector, said: “Senior leaders and managers have, in a short time, been the architects of exceptional change, resulting in a sustained improvement in quality and a high number of students achieving qualifications and good skills. Leaders have been relentless in establishing a vision and direction that governors, staff, students and partners eagerly share.”
Ofsted praised the college’s good links with employers, businesses and schools. Together with other founding partners, Sussex Coast College instigated last year’s Own Grown campaign to encourage employers to make pledges to help young people into work, such as apprenticeships.
Since Mr Cooke took over as principal, the college has adopted a Students First approach, which Ofsted said was ‘outstanding’. The college now has two student representatives on its governing body.
Inspectors said the quality of teaching and assessment for most subjects, such as science, psychology, hair and beauty, and English was good. Art and design was given an ‘outstanding’ rating.
Mr Stanley said: “Outcomes for learners have dramatically improved over the last three years. Success rates in almost all curriculum areas in 2012/13 have increased and most are higher than, or around, the average nationally for similar colleges.
“The large majority of apprentices achieve their qualifications and success rates are well above national rates, a tribute to the strong vocational development in the college.”
Mr Cooke told the Observer that the road to success was not easy. He said: “We have had to make some difficult decisions and have not shied away from this. In some instances we had teachers not performing at a good enough level for the needs of our students so they left the organisation.
“We were also running courses we felt were not best meeting the needs of local people so we took the bull by the horns and decided not to run them.
“We have also redesigned the curriculum, providing courses at the most appropriate level for students. Before there was too much provision at advanced level which was not serving the interests of intermediate and foundation level students.
“Now the majority of students are performing above the national average, which is particularly important for East Sussex where there are many students facing educational challenges.
“I am delighted for all of my colleagues who have worked tremendously hard to achieve such exceptional change and am delighted for our students who are enjoying significant success and moving on to employment, university or further training.
“A number of colleges are already contacting us, asking how we brought about exceptional change so effectively.”
But Mr Cooke is not complacent, adding that the work to improve the college even more continues.
He said: “Our journey does not stop here as we are all ambitious to make the college outstanding in everything it does.”