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Celebrations as The Northern School of Art rated as ‘Outstanding’ again by Ofsted

Staff and students at The Northern School of Art’s Middlesbrough campus have celebrated being awarded another ‘Outstanding’ rating by Ofsted.

Following an intensive four-day inspection by six inspectors the School’s further education provision retained the top rating it has held since 2009.

The School was lauded by inspectors for providing an ‘exceptionally current and relevant curriculum’ that enables students to develop ‘specialist knowledge and skills in creative arts’ in a ‘safe and highly supportive environment that enables them to flourish’.

The School received an ‘Outstanding’ grade in seven out of eight areas, including quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, education programmes and adult learning programmes.

Dr Martin Raby, Principal at The Northern School of Art, said: “I am absolutely delighted with the result which is a testimony to the hard work of our wonderful staff and students.

‘It’s been a challenging two years with COVID and a major campus move, so the result is exceptional and demonstrates the unwavering commitment of our staff to provide the very best in creative training and skills for the talented young people of Middlesbrough and the wider Tees Valley.”

Ofsted recognised that ‘leaders and staff create an extremely calm and orderly environment’ in which students were praised for their ‘highly positive attitudes’ to learning. 

Rob Kane, The Northern School of Art’s Head of FE, commented: “To be recognised with an overall judgement of ‘Outstanding’ under the rigour of the current Ofsted framework is a fantastic achievement for our staff and learners. It is also an achievement for the parents, carers, employers, and wider community who actively support us.

“The School has a history of being a welcoming and safe place to learn. We encourage our learners to be themselves which creates a unique and positive community to learn and develop essential skills for employment.”

As the only specialist creative further education college in the Tees Valley, which relocated to a new £14.5m campus in the heart of Middlesbrough in September 2021, the inspectors highlighted the access to ‘highly specialised equipment and resources’ in ‘very well-equipped art studios and design spaces’.  The use of specialist commercial printers, professional standard photographic and image production, vocational graphic design in motion graphics, 3D design and immersive design techniques was also highlighted.

Lecturers were identified as being ‘highly skilled and expert in their arts specialisms… many continue to work in the creative industries outside of their teaching roles to maintain their design expertise’.

In relation to career development in the creative industries, students ‘gain valuable new skills and knowledge due to the effective partnerships which lecturers have secured with local employers.’

The School has developed a ‘very effective careers education programme’ which supports students in understanding their careers routes into training, higher education or employment resulting in students becoming ‘increasingly more aspirational in their career ambitions.’

Importantly, students were recognised as responding ‘very positively to the high expectations set by their lecturers’ and ‘demonstrate a good understanding of wider social issues and the beneficial impact that the creative industries have on society. They take on active roles in artistic projects set by lecturers and employers that enable them to contribute to improving their local communities.’

The School was also recognised as celebrating ‘individuality and diversity’ and students benefitted from a ‘strong, zero-tolerance culture regarding bullying, harassment and discrimination.’

Dr Raby continued: “As an Art School we are extremely proud of our talented staff, current students and alumni who work across the creative industries. It is a privilege to be part of their journey, supporting the training and education of the next generation of gifted designers and creatives from across the Tees Valley.”

The Ofsted inspection took place in February 2022; the School was previously inspected in June 2009.

The Northern School of Art is a further and higher education specialist art and design college based on two campus sites. The School offers creative education and training from six years upwards with a thriving Saturday Club & Arts Award, A-levels, Diplomas, Access to Higher Education, Foundation Diploma, Degrees and Postgraduate in specialist design, film, arts and performance studios.

The creation of the School’s new town centre architect-designed, purpose-built three-storey building in followed a £14.5million investment by the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority.

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