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Two newly acquired EKC Group campuses have received top marks all round in their first OFSTED monitoring visit.
The Group - which consists of six Further Education Colleges and four Business Units - took over the Ashford College and Canterbury Spring Lane sites at the height of the pandemic.
The education watchdog surveyed the sites on January 19 and 20, overall finding ‘significant progress’ had been made at both.
Inspectors assessed integration into EKC Group’s shared vision and strategy, creation of an effective governance structure and how effective training is.
On all of these factors, inspectors deemed the Group to reach the highest standard.
In a summary of findings, head inspector Carolyn Brownsea said the EKC Group strategy had been implemented successfully “to deliver an ambitious vision and mission, supporting employers, stakeholders and students.
“Leaders and managers have revised the curriculums, to develop the knowledge and skills required to support the economic and social prosperity of the communities of east Kent and to enhance students’ career prospects.”
They also noted staff were clear on their role in helping to create positive results and benefiting the Group’s wider strategy.
Praise was also heaped onto the integration of the sites into the Group-wide umbrella, highlighting how all staff had been given a laptop and clear guidance on how to achieve short- and long-term goals.
EKC Group’s leadership was highlighted for “astutely” using “their business and sector knowledge to assess the benefits of bid applications related to curriculum developments.
“They meticulously assess local plans, including those of the relevant local councils, to inform strategic and curriculum planning. Leaders have successfully bid for funding, including for an engineering hub in Ashford, providing employers with access to new technologies and training as part of the ‘decarbonising Kent’ initiative.”
Awareness of the communities served by each College was later raised again, when inspectors stated that leaders at both Ashford and Spring Lane “have used their highly effective engagement of employers and stakeholders to inform the local and east Kent curriculum plan.
“They successfully engage with employers, ensuring that teaching and learning facilities meet industry standards. Employers agree that students are well prepared to meet the needs of the workplace.”
The students themselves were also recognised for their attitude to studying and eagerness to excel in their chosen courses.
The report reads: “Students are motivated and interested in the work they complete as part of their work experience. Employers give them increasing responsibilities as a result. Students are able to put into practice theory and practical skills that they have learned at college.”
It was also noted that through annual ‘social action weeks’, students had the opportunity to develop practical skills through projects both in the classroom and with external partners.
Concluding the monitoring report, the inspectors write: “Students develop skills such as problem-solving and planning, which prepares them for their work placements and future work or further education opportunities.”
For the full OFSTED report, click here.