Students learning to work in agriculture and other land-based sectors are gaining many of the skills and much of the important knowledge they need from specialist colleges but a few vital improvements are still needed, an Ofsted report has found.
The project leading to the report, ‘Good practice in land-based education and training’, was jointly undertaken by Ofsted and Landex.
Inspectors visited 8 specialist land-based colleges, all members of Landex, and identified good practice in teaching, learning and assessment. The colleges visited were in the North West, North East, South West, South East and East Midlands regions.
Land-based education and training covers a broad range of subjects, including agriculture, horticulture, animal care, equine studies, countryside and wildlife management and environmental conservation. Landex, ‘Land Based Colleges Aspiring to Excellence’, is a subscriber organisation with 36 member colleges and universities in England and 6 Members in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Specifically, the report finds:
- the colleges have very strong links with the land-based sector
- these links are used well to improve students’ education and increase their employment opportunities
- teachers have wide land-based experience and considerable industrial credibility
- teachers use the extensive and often very high-quality resources available at the land-based colleges very well to help students to learn
- students are motivated through a ’coherent and broad curriculum’
Whilst project-based assessment is considered ‘very effective’, a few other aspects such as the use of information and learning technology require improvement. Ofsted inspectors found that although teachers were beginning to emphasise the importance of developing students’ English and mathematical skills, this was not widespread enough.
Ofsted also found that teachers did not always ensure that classroom-based activities were ‘innovative, creative or demanding enough’ to help students reach their full academic potential, particularly the more able.Ofsted’s Deputy Director for Further Education and Skills, Marina Gaze, commented on the findings:
This report shows the valuable work that land-based colleges are doing in equipping students with the skills they need to work in areas such as farming, animal care and conservation.
The colleges’ performance has opened up key employment opportunities for students, particularly by working with employers in the sector. This allows them to influence what is taught so that students learn the skills that the land-based industry is looking for.
However, there are still areas where provision needs to improve, particularly in the teaching of English and mathematics. This is vital if we are to ensure students have all the skills employers place value on.
The report also finds that Landex offers a substantial amount of support to the colleges, particularly through sharing what works. Chief Executive of Landex, Chris Moody OBE, said:
Landex members welcome the opportunity to work more closely with Ofsted to ensure that the service they offer to learners is of the highest possible quality.
We are delighted that the report highlights the strong emphasis that colleges place upon both preparing students for employment, and upon meeting the needs of industry.
The identification of areas for improvement will be of particular interest to members who place a high priority upon addressing areas of less good practice.
Ofsted will, as recommended in the report, maintain regular links with Landex in order to share knowledge and ideas relating to good practice in land-based education and training.
Notes to editors
- The colleges visited were: Askham Bryan College; Duchy College (part of Cornwall College); Hadlow College; Hartpury College; Moulton College; Plumpton College; Reaseheath College; and Sparsholt College.