Halls of residence at South Tyneside College – used mainly by young mariners studying at world-famous South Shields Marine School – have been judged ‘outstanding’ for the second successive time by education inspectorate Ofsted.
Ofsted found the support residential students receive to be so effective that they achieve more than their non-residential peers, benefiting from progress that was ‘significant and sustained’.
Inspectors judged all three inspection categories – overall experiences and progress, how well young people are helped and protected, and the effectiveness of leaders and managers – as being first class.
During three days on site, they also discovered an exceptional level of professional practice and staff who worked to make a big difference to students’ lives and college leaders who demonstrated a proactive approach to continuous improvement.
And they confirmed student behaviour was exemplary, due largely to an ethos and culture which promoted maturity and responsibility.
Through exceptional leadership and a cohesive, motivated team, Ofsted said students quickly developed the skills and confidence to make their maritime training a success.
In their report, inspectors Simon Morley and Tina Ruffles said: “Leadership and management are excellent and provide students with high levels of support and thoroughly prepare them for their future careers.
“The resourceful and accomplished leadership promotes high expectations for what all students can achieve, regardless of their individual backgrounds and needs.
“Furthermore, the committed and proactive management of the residential provision ensures that students thrive. Targeted additional support over and above what would normally be expected inspires students to achieve.
“There is a successful balance of nurturing students and promoting their self-discipline and responsibility, that delivers results.”
They also found a well-planned induction process that included parents, and which was effective at helping learners settle in to college life quickly while reassuring their families.
The inspectors added: “There is a welcoming, friendly environment that promotes tolerance and diversity and puts students’ welfare first.
“The staff are approachable, open and act with integrity. This provides students with high-quality care and support, and the relationships between students and staff are highly beneficial.”
Ofsted said the halls’ support package helped students in their quick preparations to head to sea, boosting their ‘rapid’ social, emotional and personal development.
It said their achievements and development were sustained into adulthood, and college life ‘significantly’ improved their life chances and employability.
For non-marine students staying at the halls, high levels of support ensured they also made ‘excellent’ progress.
To guarantee help and protection, Ofsted said management and organisation was ‘meticulous and purposeful’, with students reporting feeling safe and their accommodation secure.
Parents also felt reassured by the clear expectations about student behaviour and curfew rules, and learners, most living away from home for the first time, were thoroughly protected.
Ofsted found well-structured observation and welfare checks were in place - from halls’ cleaners to security guards, accommodation duty supervisors and the manager.
It led to staff getting to know students well and being quick to spot any signs they may need extra support.
Staff also had a significant impact on addressing students’ vulnerabilities, helping them develop coping strategies which kept them on track with their learning and progress.
Inspectors identified numerous adults from whom students could seek advice or complain to with any issues such as noise, maintenance and learner relationships, all of which were swiftly addressed.
They said students and parents reported being very positive about the way staff were dedicated to optimising college life. Here, proactive leadership ensured staff across the college worked together as a confident and cohesive team.
Managers and governors were found to understand the college’s strengths and weaknesses through a rigorous approach to self-assessment.
Their commitment to continuous improvement has resulted in the achievements of students rising since the last inspection in November 2015.
During the inspection in May, Ofsted also found significant recent refurbishment of the residential accommodation and an extensive enrichment programme.