High praise from Ofsted is another great result for the colleges, students and staff, that make up the Education Training Collective (Etc.).

In its first full inspection since the merger of Stockton Riverside College and Redcar and Cleveland College, the group, which also includes Bede Sixth Form College, NETA Training and The Skills Academy (Billingham), has been rated ‘Good’ with ‘Outstanding’ features.

The report, published today, describes a college group where students are “very proud to study” and they benefit from “a strong culture of positive respect”.

Group principal and chief executive, Phil Cook, said: “As a group our aim, above all else, is to provide high quality local colleges for local people.  Gaining outstanding for leadership and management is a fantastic accolade for the group, but also and importantly for those stakeholders we work with; you do not achieve outstanding without excellent partnerships that have a direct impact on our students learning.”

The college group was also rated ‘Outstanding’ for behaviour and attitudes, personal development, and education programmes for young people, and rated ‘Good’ in all other areas.  Phil added: “It is reasonable for parents, stakeholders and our communities to assume our provision for young people is now outstanding, as that’s what Ofsted has said and that is brilliant news.  For other aspects of our provision such as our apprenticeships and our work with adults and high needs students, Ofsted has commended us and again our communities can be assured that such services are judged as being really really good.”

It also marks a milestone for Redcar and Cleveland College.  The college had previously received an inadequate rating before merger, but in the view of Ofsted has been “transformed” and is now considered “the college of first choice” for many young people living in the borough.

Preparing to hand over the reins later this year, after nine years leading the college group, Phil said: “To deliver the service our communities deserve takes hard work and determination, from our staff, leaders, governing body and, of course, our amazing students, not least as we faced the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic.

“That’s why it is fantastic to now see our incredible teams, across the group, and our partners, receive external recognition.”

Inspectors also recognised the support that learners, of all ages and abilities, receive and the enrichment programme that “helps them to develop their wider employability skills, confidence, and resilience.”

There was further praise for the curriculum, which is shaped to meet local economy and skill demands while, working with specialist providers, the group is able to offer a “niche provision” giving people access to local jobs that would normally be out of reach.

The report said: “Students and apprentices benefit from useful and relevant training in their local communities which meets the needs of employers and the priorities of the local enterprise partnership.”

This has resulted in exciting projects in the pipeline, further supporting their local communities, such as the addition of Redcar’s Clean Energy Education Hub, plans to extend facilities at NETA Training and developments at Bede.

Chairman of the Etc. governing board, Mark White OBE DL, said: “As a board of governors we welcome this Ofsted result which is testament to the commitment of all our teams and the work they do to deliver for our communities.”

Retiring in the summer after 27 years on the boards of the colleges that make up the Etc., culminating in his current role as chair, Mark added: “I am extremely proud to have been a part of this incredible group of colleges, of everything it has achieved and everything it will go on to achieve in the future.”