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Principals update - May 2017

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This update contains the information I will present at the commencement of our Staff Development event on the 26th May, an event which concludes a very successful half term for our college.

Our recent Ofsted inspection indicates that the inspection team concur with our self-assessment that Stephenson College remains a “good” college and we await the confirmation of this through the publication of their report, which we anticipate shortly after half term. Within our overall effectiveness the strength of both our adult and apprenticeship provision was recognised and inspectors also endorsed our view that our study programmes require improvement.

Outcomes for learners in this provision are a critical focus for us as we move towards the end of this academic year. Achievement must be secured for those students we have retained on their programmes and added value is also crucially important for our Level 3 cohort. It is essential that our students’ conclude all of the work required for their programme with all assignments submitted by Friday 16th June and I know we will all be working hard to ensure that this is achieved. 

Going forward there are also some key teaching, learning and assessment challenges that we must address. In particular, the quality of assessment that enables students to make better progress from their starting points must improve and the role our college plays in raising the aspirations of young people will be increasingly important.

However, the inspection proved once again the strength of our college community and is compounded by the SFA’s evaluation of our financial strength to produce a college of which we can be proud. Through-out the process colleagues, our students, governors and our key partners all demonstrated their contributions to our college and provided testimony of their commitment to our work. We are fortunate to receive this support that demonstrates for us within the Stephenson community the expression “we are all in it together” is not a cliché but a reality. 

On the 8th June we have a General Election, the results of which will no doubt affect us all. Our strategy at Stephenson College over recent years has been to grow our apprenticeship provision and we have recently received confirmation of our inclusion on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers. This strategy served us well during our inspection and, irrespective of which political party wins the General Election, is one which we will continue as it will no doubt remain a key priority for any new government. As a part of producing our budget for next year we have been validating our courses and considering the requirements of new apprenticeship standards. The standard costing model we use to validate our courses is well understood by our managers and will enable our delivery to be more efficient next year. We continue to attract new employer partners and to extend our national apprenticeship programmes, successes which create challenges, particularly in relation to our student residential accommodation. We will present a proposal to our Corporation on the 5th July regarding our intended solution to this challenge and this will be communicated shortly afterwards to everyone. We believe our suggestion represents an exciting opportunity for our college and will enable our contribution to our locality to increase. 

Following our inspection we have been able to share some of the experience with North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College, which is also graded as a “good” college by Ofsted, as a part of our evolving collaboration. We have, and will continue to discuss our approach to inspection as they anticipate an inspection in the next academic year. Specifically we have provided support in relation to work experience, one of the key strengths within our study programmes. The managers from our colleges have met and as Principals we have, and will, attend the governor strategy days of each college. At our strategy day, which took place during our inspection week, we considered our next Strategic Plan. We will circulate our final draft, asking for any comments or suggestions you may wish to be included, prior to our Corporation meeting on the 5th July at which this plan will be discussed and approved. 

During the final half term of this academic year I know that you will complete the work required for our students to succeed on their courses and we will also interview potential students as a part of our recruitment processes for next year. However we must also ensure that we continue to generate income for this year as we work towards delivering our income forecasts. We will provide our graphs towards our forecast positions for everyone after half term, along with our student attendance and timely apprenticeship completion information. However, in the meantime, we will promote our adult provision, which is seen as our outstanding area of work that has produced high quality results in a financially efficient manner for many years. The targets for our adult delivery are challenging and where support is needed to ensure that they are reached we will communicate our requirements to you. 

The contents of today’s Staff Development event have been circulated and I feel provides a wide range of helpful support for colleagues across our college. Next year we will be organising our staff development slightly differently. We recognise that staff development needs greater differentiation to ensure the training requirements for all staff are met more fully and that our training is provided more flexibly due to this the complexity of our curriculum delivery, with day and block release patterns creating organisational difficulties for our events. We also recognise that more regular staff development is likely to have a greater impact as staff can concentrate on transferring best practice sequentially, in smaller, more manageable adaptions. 

Therefore we will be moving to a new model next year with monthly staff development sessions that will take place in calendared faculty meeting slots so that everyone can plan their schedules around these dates at the start of the year. A programme will be published at the end of July and will take into account our priorities reflected in our inspection feedback.

We also recognise the need to support new staff and particularly those new to the teaching profession. Both new starters and recently appointed staff will receive a full two day teaching and learning induction so they are confident in what the college expects of them. Again we will publish the dates at the end of July.

Finally, I would like to say thank you to all members of our college community for your contributions to making our college a “good” college. We recognise that we cannot be complacent as we have had to improve over recent years to maintain our position and this will no doubt continue. However we should reflect on our achievements and celebrate our successes. Lunch will be provided for everyone at today’s event as a small gesture of our appreciation for your efforts. However the “buzz” around our college this week and the knowledge that we work at a good college is our reward.  I hope you enjoy your Bank Holiday break and congratulations everyone: well done!


Dr Nigel Leigh

Principal and Chief Executive

Stephenson College


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