Dudley College of Technology has been awarded Ofsted’s prestigious ‘outstanding’ rating following an inspection of the college on 25-26 January 2017 and 17-19 May 2017. In total the college received an ‘outstanding’ grade in seven of the eight key areas reviewed and a further ‘good’ in the eighth, culminating in an ‘overall effectiveness’ grade of ‘outstanding’.
This achievement marks a notable high point in the college’s remarkable journey over the last 10 years. Rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in March 2007, with failing financial health, falling student numbers and poor facilities and resources the college’s future seemed bleak. The inspection findings confirm that today Dudley College of Technology is the region’s leading provider of technical education. Full and part time student numbers are buoyant and the college is the largest provider of apprenticeships in the West Midlands, with programmes described by Ofsted as meeting the needs of “employers and apprenticeships particularly well.” Outcomes for learners are high, often exceptionally so, particularly for apprenticeships, in English and mathematics qualifications and across the college’s technical programmes.
In the report published on 13 June 2017 inspectors commend the college’s “outstanding teaching” which is supported by exceptional facilities and resources provided by the inspirational Dudley Learning Quarter. Inspectors praise the college for establishing an “ambitious vision for the college and its role in the region” with a curriculum that “anticipates regional and national need, leading to highly appropriate training pathways for learners and apprentices.” which is supported by “staff who are enthusiastic about their roles… and thrive on the challenge of their work.”
The report acknowledges the college is leading apprenticeships development in anticipation of future industrial needs and that “…leaders and governors have worked assiduously and very successfully in securing the resources needed to realise these transformational ambitions.”
Inspectors found that the college had successfully developed “a culture of high expectations” for all of its learners and consequently “learners have excellent attitudes, take pride in their work and achieve consistently well.” Inspectors found the college’s learners “make significant progress compared to their starting points in achieving their qualification goals and in gaining… professional, vocational, work-related skills.” The college’s relentless focus on sustained improvement and ‘high aspiration for learners’, inspectors say, has ensured a high majority of learners succeed and progress.
The college’s very close collaboration with a wide range of local stakeholders’ including employers and schools is highlighted as another feature of the college’s highly effective strategy. Inspectors note that: “Through extensive partnerships leaders create excellent opportunities for learners to progress into further learning and jobs.” There is also praise for the college’s approach to inclusion and celebrating diversity: “the college continues to provide a highly inclusive environment for learners, where shared values of mutual respect and tolerance are clearly visible”, leading to a “good understanding of life in modern Britain”.
Principal Lowell Williams, who joined the college in 2008 having previously taken South Leicestershire College to Ofsted ‘outstanding’ in June 2007, described the journey from 2008 to today as a ‘long and difficult road’.
“Our journey from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘outstanding’ has not been easy. It has been a long and difficult road but one which staff and students have travelled together. We developed early on a very clear and aspirational strategy for the college, but the real key to our success has been our passionate and highly motivated staff who have genuinely learnt how to pull together as a team. And we have relentlessly focused on outstanding teaching and learning and the progress and progression of our learners. We have also enjoyed superb support from the college’s governing body who haven’t been afraid to take some risks, such as borrowing to invest in the Dudley Learning Quarter.
When I joined the college in 2008 I quickly became aware of its illustrious history, dating back to 1862, and also the proud traditions of the Black Country. But there was a frustrating sense that Dudley’s best days were gone, that nothing new and aspirational could ever be achieved in Dudley and that the educational attainment of Dudley young people and adults would always lag behind their counterparts elsewhere in the country. At the time the college’s aspirational plans were treated with a good degree of scepticism and I had many dark nights myself wondering if we really could realise our ambitions.
But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the ability of young people and adults in the Black Country. Quite the opposite, in fact. The staff and students of Dudley College of Technology have proved that with the right support and challenge they can be the best in the country in whatever they chose to do. Dudley College of Technology has become one of only a handful of colleges in the country to achieve an ‘outstanding’ rating, the first general further education college to do so this year, and we have also recently been accepted as a founder member of the prestigious Chartered Institute for Further Education.”
Commenting on his further ambitions for the college Lowell said: “And we haven’t finished yet. There’s so much more to be done. Numbers in Dudley Sixth continue to grow with more learners each year achieving the highest academic grades, many of whom may never have believed it possible. We recently opened Dudley Advance 1, our advanced manufacturing and engineering centre, which with the help of local employers is refocusing the skills of local young people and driving productivity. Dudley Advance II opens for business this September offered a cutting edge curriculum in digital applications for the construction industry and we are confident it will quickly become a centre of national importance. Our exciting plans for University Centre Dudley are developing at pace and the newly formed Dudley Academies Trust starts work in earnest this September.
Locally we all need to believe that we can make our own future. If nothing else Dudley College of Technology’s ‘outstanding’ grade proves this. Our new strapline for the future?
We are outstanding.
We are Dudley.