Inspectors award pass marks for Borders College

BORDERS College has been given the thumbs-up by education watchdogs.

HMIe inspectors visited the further education establishment in March and praised the college’s self-evaluation and noted students gained good results.

Vice-principal David Killean said: “This report confirms that we are delivering a high-quality learning experience and this is borne out by the high level of student retention and attainment.”

Inspectors stated: “Well-established self-evaluation and internal review processes are effective in maintaining high levels of retention and attainment. Retention and attainment trends are high overall, although trends in some subject areas have fluctuated over the last three years.”

But where the college found there is a problem, it had made changes, they said.

“There are good examples of where actions identified through programme review processes have led to improvements in retention and/or attainment. In motor vehicle, the admissions process and criteria have improved, and work experience elements within programmes have increased.

“In beauty therapy, level 1 and level 3 learners work together, providing peer support and developing increased learner confidence and motivation. The inclusion of more practical elements in the early education and childcare national certificate (NC) has increased programme relevance, learner engagement and motivation.”

Turning to sport and leisure, the inspectors pointed out that a review of programme content and benchmarking with an academy in England had contributed to the successful ongoing development of the Borders Academy of Sporting Excellence (BASE) and a rise in attainment levels.

The inspectors also said the college had changed its student selection for the better. “Improvements have been made to interview and selection processes. Taster sessions have been introduced in sport and construction (courses) to better inform potential applicants of the nature and demands of programmes, and to enable staff to make a more accurate appraisal of applicants’ skills and abilities,” they said.

College programme teams consider qualifications from a range of awarding bodies and select the best based on evidence from their internal review and the aims of the programmes, including professional opportunities. And as a result, according to the inspectorate, qualifications from a range of awarding bodies feature across the curriculum which contributes to learner success.

They continued: “Work is ongoing to further contextualise core skills and make them more relevant and engaging for learners with good examples of where this has been successful. However, in some subject areas, core skills are still taught discreetly and are less relevant and engaging for learners.

“Staff are much more aware of the importance of improving the promotion of equality and diversity within the curriculum.

And they noted: “The college and the recent external review have not highlighted any specific concerns in relation to safeguarding.

“However, the college is focusing on the issue of potential cyber-bullying for work with learners and managing some aspects of self-disclosure in order to ensure all are safe.”

The inspectors said good progress has been made against the 2011-11 annual priorities, set by the college, including redeveloping facilities at Newtown St Boswells.