Ofsted Annual Report:
What makes a successful FE College?

Ofsted’s annual report, published last week, highlights a fall in the proportion of general FE colleges judged good and outstanding and calls for radical change in the sector. This prompted me to think about the successful and improving colleges we work with and what they have in common. They have many common features including strong leadership but, beneath this, they all share the following.

1. A clear mission and vision that explicitly focusses on achievement
2. Constant and ongoing self-assessment
3. Consistent and fair management of teacher underperformance

1. A clear mission and vision that explicitly focusses on achievement

It is easy to be vague and wordy in mission and vision statements, especially if yours was written tens of years ago. Writing one that’s easy to understand and grasp, can be the first step in unifying members of the college on your improvement journey.

Recently judged outstanding, Truro and Penwith College’s mission statement is impossible to doubt.

The purpose of the College is to provide the best possible learning experience, leading to the highest possible level of achievement by our students. 

The clearer the statement and therefore purpose, the easier it is to communicate and thread into the self-assessment, improvement plan and activity such as teacher observations and professional development.

2. Constant and ongoing self-assessment

The colleges we work with are constantly reviewing what they do and its impact on their core purpose which always focuses on achievement. Their self-assessment and course reviews aren’t one-off activities, but continuous whole-college processes.

They involve everyone in the process and develop and allocate individual self-assessments across all aspects of provision. Once team entries are validated, they combine them to create the full report. From this, they identify actions for improvement and develop the college improvement plan.

3. Consistent and fair management of teacher underperformance

Ofsted sites teaching as an issue in almost all of the colleges it judged to be less than good over the last year. The improving colleges we work with all have a strong HR department that supports and reflects the aims of the college leadership team.

William Garnett, Head of Employment at Bates Wells Braithwaite reinforces this, “HR directors in particular must be evangelical advocates of the change in their college. They must be outcome focused and not process driven. In my experience, excellent HR directors have been instrumental in delivering change in colleges… they have created a performance culture where all their staff recognise that there is room for improvement and people are not intimidated by honest feedback, but rather relish it, because they recognise that the need for improvement suitably supported by the college, is a personal opportunity for them as well as the key to enhancing service delivery for students, whose needs have seldom been greater.”

As well as this, staff are clear about what is expected of them, know how to improve and value and trust the college’s performance management processes. Observations and other judgements about their teaching are planned and linked to professional development and the college’s mission and improvement plan.

How is this possible with tightening budgets and growing pressure?

The colleges we work with realise that implementing or maintaining whole-college improvement is impossible without the right tools and systems in place and that’s why they look to CollegeiP. The software is online so works across different campuses and shares college priorities with colleagues through their online portfolio. This is where they also access all elements of their performance management, professional development and self-assessment responsibilities.

All staff can see how they need to develop to support college improvement and their line manager and the HR department can easily monitor their progress and offer support and praise. 

About CollegeiP

CollegeiP is online software that coordinates, shares and integrates your self-assessment report, improvement plan, performance management and continuous professional development.

College leaders and HR departments have full visibility of performance management processes across the college. Each member of staff has their own secure CollegeiP portfolio that reflects their level of responsibility and the level of professional guidance they need or give to others.You can ensure everyone is on board and feels a part of your improvement journey.

How CollegeiP focusses everyone on your college purpose

Once you have defined a clear and achievement focussed vision and mission, CollegeiP makes sharing it with others easier. It does this by threading it through their professional portfolio through objectives or targets, needs analysis self-reviews, performance monitoring such as observations and the professional development opportunities you offer.

How CollegeiP supports self-assessment

CollegeiP’s self-assessment and improvement planning moduleensures both are ongoing processes.Colleagues can be allocated areas of responsibility with their contributions feeding into the wider self-assessment and improvement plan. Once defined, improvement targets can be visible to colleagues and integrated into their professional objectives and professionaldevelopment.

How CollegeiP ensures consistent management of teacher underperformance

CollegeiP ensures that everyone has access to the same information and level of support from their line manager, wherever they are based. The transparency of CollegeiP helps the HR department ensure your performance management processes are consistently and robustly followed. Where there are discrepancies or issues, CollegeiP highlights these so that appropriate support can be offered. If colleagues are being mentored or coached, CollegeiP also supports this, helping face-to-face meetings to be more productive.

With CollegeiP, you can:

  • Forensically focus on improving teaching and learning in your college
  • Allocate appropriate elements of the self-assessment and course reviews to individuals
  • Set visible deadlines and reminders for information gathering
  • Share improvement plan priorities, for specific areas of provision and the whole college
  • Use needs analysis reports and self and peer-reviews to identify areas of staff development across the college
  • Develop cross-college working parties for research projects and to share best practice
  • Include improvement priorities and the college purpose within performance monitoring such as observations and scrutiny exercises
  • Reflect improvement priorities and college purpose in individual professional objectives.
  • Ensure professional development supports the aims of the improvement plan and college purpose
  • Monitor the impact of the professional development your staff engage it, whether external courses or in-house collaboration
  • Provide transparency for all colleagues in their performance management and reassurance to the HR department
  • Engage all staff in their professional development, wherever they are based and the hours they work
  • Motivate everyone to improve by engaging them in the college vision and improvement priorities
  • Report and analyse any element of staff performance to ensure your aims are being met and to offer appropriate professional development


(2016) The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills 2015/16. Crown Copyright. [online] Link to report

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