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OFSTED: Good with Outstanding Features

Tom Fogden

Our first Ofsted inspection started on Ada Lovelace Day this year. We think we did our namesake proud.

As the first new FE College in England since 1993 and the first of the National Colleges programme to open our doors, we set out to create a new type of educational institution which takes a fresh approach to supporting students, especially those from under-represented groups in tech, on a journey from 16 years of age through to highly skilled digital roles and flourishing lives. In just two years of operation, we are incredibly proud to be realising that ambition. 

Our Ofsted report today highlights the quality of our teaching, our meaningful engagement with employers, the excellent careers guidance our students receive and our successes in our social missions to recruit more girls and those from low income backgrounds into tech. 

On our aim of being a centre of excellence for the teaching and learning of digital skills, the report says our “learners and apprentices make good progress, quickly learn new skills in computer science and acquire a good breadth of knowledge of the digital technology industries.” It goes on to say that our “teachers are highly experienced and enthusiastic and use their industry knowledge to motivate learners and provide valuable insights into the world of work.”

On our ambition to become an engine for social mobility, the report specifies that “governors and senior leaders have successfully focused on raising participation rates among women and those from deprived backgrounds in digital skills training.” It further adds that “learners receive excellent careers guidance and a very high proportion of learners who complete their course successfully move on to the next level of education, training or jobs in the sector.”

We have a goal to be an aspirational alternative to university and now offer two higher and degree level digital apprenticeship programmes with some of the biggest names in industry. The report says our “apprentices make a significant contribution to their employing companies, many of which are prestigious ones.”

And finally, we aim to be a beacon of best practice for employment focussed provision and the Ofsted report says we “have been highly successful in involving a wide range of employers in designing the curriculum and in providing work placements and professional coaches to learners, to ensure that the programmes comprehensively address the needs of industry.” And goes on to say that “senior leaders and governors are relentless in their ambitions to establish the National College for Digital Skills as a sector leader in its field.”
We have more to do, but these early successes give us a great foundation from which we will start to deliver, at greater scale, on our organisational aims. We have developed a proof of concept which shows that it is possible to be a centre of excellence and an engine of social mobility. Seeing is believing.