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Newcastle & Stafford Colleges Group

2019 Full Inspection Report
What does the provider do well and what does it need to do better?

Leaders and managers have very effectively brought about the merger of Newcastle College and Stafford College. They have integrated rapidly the two campuses, setting high expectations for both staff and learners. Direction from senior leaders is clear, supportive and challenging. As a result, staff are highly motivated and feel able to provide learners with an outstanding learning experience.

Leaders have exceptional links with local employers and regional business groups, including the local enterprise partnership and regional mayoral authorities. They collaborate with them to create a challenging curriculum designed to help learners and apprentices achieve their career ambitions.

Managers and teachers of subjects such as health and social care, and child development meet with local hospitals, schools, and care providers to identify their particular needs. Teachers and trainers design their curriculum to help learners and apprentices to develop the specific knowledge and skills employers demand. For example, during a real-life project, care learners gained a deep empathy and appreciation for their clients’ needs when trying on a body suit to replicate the experience of a pregnant woman and an elderly person. Employers value highly the way apprentices’ curriculum helps them to develop the exact knowledge, skills and behaviours they need for their current and future job roles.

Leaders ensure that teachers and trainers plan a coherent and challenging curriculum for all learners and apprentices, including those on subcontracted provision. Teachers of learners who have high needs, who are on foundation programmes, adapt the provision carefully into smaller, achievable chunks so learners develop – step-by-step – their knowledge and skills to live independent lives. For example, teachers on entry level English use accurately information from learners’ education, health and care plans to arrange bite-size activities that enhance specifically their speaking, listening and confidence in self-expression. Trainers work exceptionally well with employers and curriculum teams, so that their work roles match to apprentices’ studies. Employers and trainers change apprentices’ learning routinely as their jobs evolve over time; for example, substituting a finance unit for a specific information technology unit to cover spreadsheet applications

Teachers are highly qualified and use their expertise to inspire learners to think deeply about their subjects and to master complex skills. They explain and reinforce very effectively key concepts, often using interesting presentations and videos that engage learners, helping them to visualise and assess their knowledge and performance. They use questioning adeptly and a variety of revision activities such as digital quizzes to check and challenge learners’ understanding. Teachers skilfully increase the levels of complexity over time to ensure that learners ‘get it’. Often teachers use innovative resources that help to make theory more memorable for learners. Sports teachers use up-to-date location technology to produce a detailed post-match analysis for learners to scrutinise, so that they develop their tactical skills in football more rapidly.

Teachers use information about learners’ starting points to plan accurately the activities and support needed for them to achieve their potential. They adapt lessons sensitively to ensure that all learners can make sense of challenging topics and situations. For example, teachers help adults on the Prince’s Trust courses complete a residential and provide individualised coaching and mentoring to help them build friendships and develop their personal skills before moving on to work experience.

Teachers and trainers use a wide variety of assessment strategies to ensure that learners know well – and can remember long-term – new knowledge and skills. For example, learners benefit from continual recall assessments to help them retrieve detailed and complex information in areas such as anatomy, physiology, engineering and science for future examinations and tests. Teachers provide learners with tips and strategies such as mnemonics, quizzes and debates to help them demonstrate their knowledge fluently during examinations and end-point assessments. Trainers and employers set challenging distinction-level assignments and projects that require apprentices to recall, apply and synthesise previous learning. For example, an apprentice revised their employer’s procedure manual for engraving. They were able to explain how this activity contributed to the apprenticeship standard and challenged them to apply theory into their work.

Learners and apprentices develop consistently high-level practical and technical skills at college, during competitions, and their work experience. Teachers and mentors set learners specific tasks for them to hone their skills and behaviours and to practise their subject and technical language. For example, during their employer-based ‘future leaders programme’, business learners interviewed staff in areas such as finance, human resources and marketing, to assess their role in improving their company’s productivity. Teachers review learners’ work carefully and use their expertise and up-to-date knowledge of their sectors to provide learners with very helpful feedback to improve their skills.

Learners on foundation studies programmes participate in an extensive range of high-quality work placements. As a result, these learners gain the skills they need to live and work confidently in society and in future employment. For example, learners take part in skills competitions, enterprise events, volunteering and internal work placements in the college kitchen and coffee shop.

Learners who have high needs receive highly effective specialist support. Managers and teachers coordinate their transition and specialist support very well. They use learners’ education, health and care plans to identify accurately the individual support necessary including transport, personal care and a variety of adaptive equipment to support very well individuals’ learning needs. Learning support assistants liaise routinely with teachers, so that learners have individual targets and receive the help they need to access learning materials and activities effectively.

Learners and apprentices benefit greatly from the high-quality and unbiased careers information, advice and guidance they receive throughout their time at college. They make informed choices about their course and future career options, with only a few learners opting to change their course or leave the college. Most learners visit universities to find the best course for their needs. Teachers help learners to prepare and develop the confidence and techniques for successful interviews with both education institutions and employers. A few learners join an ‘honours programme’ to help them realise their ambition to achieve a place at high-performing universities. As a result, most learners move on to their intended next steps.

Leaders, managers and teachers have developed an extensive and high-quality enrichment offer at both campuses that enhances learners’ curriculum. Learners plan and support charity events and projects and take part in numerous fundraising appeals. Many compete in vocational and sporting competitions and visit local and national employers and other organisations, including universities. As a result, learners extend their technical, practical and life skills so that they can live productive lives and make very good progress towards their career ambitions. They develop a strong understanding of life in modern Britain, their responsibilities at college and in their communities. For example, learners on music and acting courses perform extensively at college and in community settings, recently performing ‘50s music for the elderly in conjunction with the local fire station community team. Consequently, learners are highly motivated and collaborate very effectively together. They listen carefully and respect each other’s ideas, opinions and values.

Learners develop very well their confidence, resilience and well-being. All learners undertake and value highly a programme that helps them to protect their mental health. They learn effective strategies to cope with stressful situations and know who to contact if needed. Most learners take part in a wide variety of fitness and sporting activities. During their comprehensive tutorial programme, learners develop a strong understanding of age-appropriate relationships, helping them to recognise and avoid sexual exploitation.

Learners’ – including those who have high needs – and apprentices’ behaviour and attitudes to learning at college and at work are exemplary. They attend lessons on time, and their attendance at lessons is high. Learners work collaboratively with teachers and are keen to show their best and achieve the challenging targets set for them. Staff tackle immediately any signs of poor behaviour, and therefore learners flourish in a calm, orderly, positive and safe environment.

Governors bring a wide range of skills and expertise to the board, including business, finance and expertise from education. Governors scrutinise closely the work of the college, including subcontracted provision. As a result, they have a clear understanding of its strengths and weaknesses and provide very effective support to leaders and managers in their drive for continuous quality improvement.

Most learners and apprentices – including those who have high needs – make good progress based on their starting points and achieve their qualifications. Learners on vocational courses develop high-quality technical and practical skills to enable them to move into further learning or employment. Learners and apprentices develop their English and mathematical skills well and most achieve their qualifications in these subjects. A-level learners develop thoroughly the knowledge to be successful in their final examinations. The standard of learners’ and apprentices’ work is high.

2013 Full Inspection Report
What does the provider need to do to improve further?
  • Improve teaching, learning and assessment by ensuring that teachers:
    • include activities in lessons that extend all learners and particularly stretch the more capable learners
    • routinely improve learners’ English and mathematics skills in the context of their normal teaching
    • make the most of opportunities to develop learners’ understanding and experiences of equality and diversity as they occur naturally in lessons, so that they appreciate their importance in the context of their own studies.
  • Improve course review and evaluation so that managers can identify and implement actions to raise the standard of teaching, learning and assessment in the courses for which they are responsible.

2007 Full Inspection Report
Areas for improvement

The college should address:

  • the progress made by learners on AS and A2 courses relative to their prior attainment
  • the proportion of outstanding lessons
  • the setting of specific and challenging targets for all learners
  • the rigour of quality improvement planning.

2004 Re-Inspection Report


2002 Full Inspection Report
What should be improved
  • retention and pass rates on some courses
  • co-ordination and provision of literacy and numeracy support
  • unsatisfactory accommodation in some areas
  • management of work-based learning
  • lack of coherence in aspects of college strategic planning.

1998 Full Inspection Report


Report Recommendations