North Hertfordshire College (NHC) has been rated good in all areas by Ofsted, with one element of outstanding - provision for learners with high needs.

A report by the education watchdog was published yesterday (January 22), following an inspection in November of the occupationally-focused further education college, which has its main campuses in Stevenage and Hitchin.

"Students and apprentices enjoy learning and training using high-quality, industry-standard teaching resources," the report says, adding that "students thrive in a learning environment in which the development of their personal, social and employability skills is valued."

They "feel valued and respected by staff and their peers," it adds.

Meanwhile, Ofsted said "teachers design curriculums that enable students and apprentices to make swift progress," and "use a range of effective teaching methods very skilfully."

The watchdog said: "Leaders ensure that the courses and training programmes they offer extend students’ and apprentices’ knowledge and skills beyond technical standards and qualifications."

It found that "teachers make excellent use of local community partners and employers to provide a wide range of high-quality, work-related activities, volunteering opportunities and visits to workplaces that are relevant to students’ learning."

When it comes to students with high needs, they benefit from learning programmes that enable them to become more independent in their daily lives, Ofsted concluded.

Meanwhile, however, the watchdog found that "the quality of teaching and learning of English and mathematics is not yet good," adding that "this is due to the heavy reliance on using temporary agency staff."

The Ofsted report says that "too few teachers in English and mathematics use assessment methods effectively," and that "not enough students make good progress in their learning," with "too few students achieving grades 4 and above in either GCSE mathematics and/or GCSE English."

Ofsted also found that attendance rates for these two core subjects are "too low" and, "consequently, students miss key aspects of their learning."

A spokesperson for NHC explained that the college had been in the process of recruiting new teaching and 'curriculum innovation' roles into the maths and English department during the autumn term.

"Unfortunately, at the time of the inspection, a number of these roles were still vacant and therefore the college had an unusually high reliance on agency staff," she explained.

"However, we now are very fortunate to have recruited some new, outstanding, and experienced English and maths teachers, who will make a major difference to our students’ experience, their success and their future opportunities over time."

Kit Davies, principal of NHC and CEO of the Hart Learning Group, said: "I am immensely proud of the results of our latest Ofsted inspection.

"As a college, we believe our work to have a positive impact on our learners, the community and the local area, but to hear this be reaffirmed by external observers is gratifying.

"This grading would not have been possible without the support of our employer partners and key stakeholders, and I would like to thank them again for assisting our curriculum teams in the delivery of our programmes. 

"I am particularly delighted with the report's commentary on our work in meeting local skills needs and our support for our learners' personal development - and our outstanding grading for our high needs provision."

Keith Turner, deputy principal for quality, curriculum and inclusion, added: "The Ofsted report is a good reflective of the positive work teams across the college complete on a daily basis. In particular, I am delighted to see the recognition of our teaching staff for their effective use of teaching methods and the way technical skills are embedded into our curriculum to help our learners achieve success.

"We are proud of all our students, and it is brilliant that the report noted how our students feel valued and respected as part of the community. 

"We have a clear plan of how we can develop our provision even further, and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish in the coming months."

* NHC was last inspected by Ofsted in 2017, when it was rated good in all areas, with provision for learners with high needs rated outstanding, so the college has retained its position.