Ofsted monitoring visit recognises significant progress made at Activate Learning Surrey colleges post-merger

29 October, 2021

Activate Learning is delighted to announce that Ofsted has recognised the significant progress that has been made across its Surrey colleges since merging with the former Guildford College Group in 2019.

Ofsted have today published its report following the monitoring inspection it carried out at the end of September, which had a particular focus on Guildford College, Merrist Wood College and Farnham College.

Students sitting together at Guildford CollegeThis is the first time that Ofsted has visited these colleges since the 2019 merger between Guildford College Group and Activate Learning.

Activate Learning is really pleased to announce that significant progress has been made in leadership and governance, with Ofsted complimentary about the culture and values demonstrated at Activate Learning that emanate from our Learning Philosophy.

Ofsted has also recognised the considerable improvements made in teaching, learning, and assessment outcomes, and was very complimentary about the breadth and depth of developments undertaken by our teachers and managers.

Sally Dicketts CBE, Chief Executive of Activate Learning said she was proud of the achievement.

She said: “When we merged with Guildford College Group, we knew there was a significant piece of work for us to do to unify the three colleges into what would become a much larger group.

“Changing the culture of an organisation while at the same time effectively doubling the size of your current organisation is a big task.

“Staff across the organisation have worked tirelessly and with purpose to bring about meaningful changes and done so in what have been unprecedent circumstances.

“I’m so proud of how people have been able to build relationships, make meaningful changes and focus on delivering a shared vision for the Surrey colleges, despite working remotely for much of the past 18 months and enduring significant upheaval.

“I would like to give a big thank you to everyone involved in this great result.”

Following Activate Learning’s merger with Guildford College Group, we undertook a significant piece of work to upgrade the estates and IT across our Surrey colleges, investing around £5million to date to improve facilities.

Students at Farnham CollegeThere has also been work done to review the curriculum offer across the three colleges to ensure it is meeting the skills demands of the local economy and providing the right types of career pathways for students.

This investment will continue, with further plans including new facilities and community partnership ventures, as well as a range of exciting career pathways to add to Activate Learning’s already extensive offering.

The purpose of the recent monitoring visit was to review and evaluate the progress that governors, leaders and staff at Activate Learning have made in order to establish the strategic priorities and address any potential weaknesses in the quality of provision in the predecessor colleges.

The monitoring inspection visit judged Activate Learning based on four main themes:

1. What progress have senior leaders, managers and governors made in bringing together the colleges, establishing a shared vision, mission and values, and identifying an appropriate curriculum for the communities they serve?

The inspectors agreed that the college group has made Significant progress in this area (the highest possible grade), commenting that, “Leaders, managers and governors have effectively aligned the strategic priorities and management structure for the group, while maintaining the local identities of each of the different campuses.”

The report went on: “Leaders and managers promote high aspirations and expectations for all staff and learners. They are relentless in their drive to improve the quality of learning and the learning environments. Managers and staff ensure that every aspect of their work contributes fully to supporting learners to succeed.”

2. How effective have senior leaders and governors been in establishing an appropriate governing board that has suitable expertise to influence the group’s strategic decision-making and support staff to improve the quality of education?

Two students outside the animal management centre at Merrist Wood College

Whilst also awarding Activate Learning Significant progress in this area, the inspection report highlights that, “Governance arrangements are robust and highly effective” whilst also commenting that, “Governors scrutinise closely and very effectively the performance of the college, drawing on their extensive commercial and educational expertise.”

3. What impact have leaders and managers had in supporting teachers to improve their teaching and assessment practice, enabling learners and apprentices to develop appropriate knowledge and skills, and to make progress?

The report graded the college group with Reasonable progress (which indicates good, sustained progress) having been made since the merger, commenting that, “Teachers have become increasingly reflective, confident and enthusiastic in trying out new approaches to motivate their learners to succeed. This has contributed to sustained improvement in the effectiveness of teaching.”

4. What progress have senior leaders and managers made in ensuring learners achieve their qualifications, including English and mathematics, and that apprentices are supported to complete and achieve their apprenticeships?

Again, the report highlights that Reasonable progress has been made in this area whilst commenting that “Managers monitor learners’ progress well and intervene swiftly to address any concerns.”

Discover our programmes available to study at Farnham College, Guildford College and Merrist Wood College or contact us via 0800 612 6008.