OFSTED: Sussex Downs College ‘requires improvement’ but vows to continue getting better

Sussex Downs College SUS-160811-110420001
Sussex Downs College SUS-160811-110420001

Sussex Downs College says it is making ‘good progress’ to boost teaching – despite the latest Ofsted report saying it ‘requires improvement’.

Inspectors said the quality of teaching, learning and assessment for students on study programmes was ‘not yet good’ as ‘too much teaching does not help students make the progress of which they are capable’ and ‘teachers do not have high enough expectations of what their students can achieve’.

Sussex Downs College SUS-160922-100922001

Sussex Downs College SUS-160922-100922001

The report also said that attendance in English and maths is too low, that too few students achieve their qualifications, the targets set aren’t clear enough and not enough work placements are organised.

However, inspectors did praise students’ behaviour, partnerships with the local community, the practical skills of students on vocational courses, the quality of teaching for adult students and the ‘positive impact’ made by managers to identify and act on weaknesses in the college, adding that governors and managers had ‘increasingly achieved consistent management practices across sites’.

College principal and chief executive Mike Hopkins said he accepted the findings of the visit, which took place in November, but said he was pleased that the huge efforts of teachers, managers and governors had been recognised.

“Against a back-drop of funding cuts in further education, and a significant programme of change-management, I am pleased that Ofsted has recognised and highlighted the tireless work of teachers, managers and governors to turn matters around,” he said.

“We still have a significant task ahead of us, but we move forward in the knowledge that we are making progress across the entire college and its 5,600 students.”

Henry Ball, chair of governors, said, “The work of Mike, his senior team, teachers and my board of governors remains very focused on and committed to achieving a good grading in every area of college life.

“We are moving towards this, but we acknowledge that we still have more work to do. Our aim is to deliver the best possible academic and vocational training to each and every one of our students.

“We will not deviate from that pathway.”

Stephen Lloyd, Eastbourne & Willingdon MP, said, “We all know the shocking cuts the Conservative Government has dished out to the FE sector, and this has presented a challenge to many colleges, including Sussex Downs.

“I am disappointed with elements of this report, but pleased that apprenticeships have come out well and that inspectors have highlighted the principal’s strong leadership and commitment to strive for excellence.

“We now need to deliver the outstanding college that Eastbourne deserves.”

Council leader David Tutt criticised the Government’s approach to FE and the wider public sector.

He said, “This Government has carried out a systematic and sustained attack on public services in general and the FE sector in particular. Mike has faced an uphill struggle, with very limited resources to call upon. I know that Mike has put his heart and soul into implementing major changes at the college.”

Eastbourne & District Chamber of Commerce spokesman Stephen Holt highlighted the college’s excellent profile within the business sector and the wider community.

“We regularly seek support from students at Sussex Downs College for a variety of events and activities,” he added.

“This might range from helping us to organise a workshop or careers fair to assembling huts in Terminus Road for our Christmas market.

“Students are great ambassadors for the college and we are very proud of what they give back to the community.”