From education to employment

Survey of the best performing colleges finds courses are bridging the skills gap.

Students are being provided with the relevant skills to meet industry needs at the top performing colleges according to Ofsted’s post-16 good practice survey reports published today.


Inspectors made over 100 visits to colleges that had previously been deemed good or outstanding in their last Ofsted report, to identify good practice in vocational education and training. The five vocational areas that were surveyed comprised business, administration and law; science; engineering and manufacturing technologies; construction, planning and the built environment; and agriculture, horticulture and animal care.

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector for Education, Children’s Services and Skills, said: “Ofsteds surveys of good practice in post-16 education and training highlight and share the very best in a vocational area. These reports provide examples of varied and effective ways of focusing on raising standards in education and training, and enabling progression into employment.

“The best colleges in each vocational area had common features. They all had strong links with industry and related classroom learning to the demands of the workplace. They worked hard to ensure high achievement and retention rates. And continuous assessment of students ensured individuals were placed on the right courses, set appropriate targets, and identified for support when at risk of falling behind.”

Teachers” subject specialisms combined with inspiring and engaging teaching were key factors in maintaining students” interest and progress. Activities such as practical exercises and demonstrations, group work, talks by visiting speakers, industry visits and entry into skills competitions helped to motivate and encourage students and raise standards.

Collaboration with employers and businesses also helped colleges to gain sponsorships or donations of products, tools, equipment and the use of workshops.

In all of the colleges surveyed, good or excellent resources and facilities were provided. This enabled students to gain practical experience in using the latest industry standard equipment.

Good leadership and management of the curriculum were evident in the best provision. Well led departments and day-to-day management of teaching, combined with a strong focus on students” achievement and effective self-assessment, helped to raise standards.

The reports, however, revealed that in the majority of vocational courses, information technology was not used sufficiently well to enhance learning. Further use of information technology, e,g, developing resources on the intranet was a key recommendation in most of the reports. Another recommendation common to all the reports was further dissemination of good practice. In construction, it was recommended that more continues to be done to encourage women into the industry.

Rosie Spowart

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