A calm and professional learning environment which meets industry needs: Ofsted

Apprentices and full-time students at South West Durham Training are well prepared for employment in a wide range of engineering roles, meeting the skills needs of local industry.

SWDT Ofsted

Jonathan Hall is pictured (front third from right) with staff and students celebrating the Ofsted report. Photo by Barry Pells.

That’s the positive verdict of a team of Ofsted inspectors following a four-day visit to the Newton Aycliffe training provider in March.

The report found SWDT to be ‘good’ in every category: overall effectiveness; the quality of education; behaviour and attitudes; personal development; leadership and management; education programmes for young people; and apprenticeships.

The five-strong inspection team, led by HMI Cath Jackson, wrote: “Apprentices and learners value their calm and professional learning environment and are highly motivated to develop their engineering skills.

“Tutors have high expectations of learners and apprentices, who in turn behave in a safe and orderly manner in workshops, replicating the behaviour that is expected in industry.

“Learners and apprentices benefit from a well-resourced and spacious learning and training environment. They practise and apply their understanding in a realistic workplace setting. As a result, they are well prepared for employment in a range of engineering contexts.”

The report continued: “Leaders and managers have a clear strategic intent to address the skills development needs in the pharmaceutical, electrical and mechanical engineering sectors.

“Leaders collaborate well with employers to plan the training that their apprentices need. Employers appreciate how well apprentices develop the professional behaviours and attitudes that they need to work safely in often high-risk industries.

“Apprentices develop skills that allow them to progress to roles including automation engineer, assistant engineer, team manager and senior technician, and that helps to develop their employers’ businesses.”

Inspectors also praised the quality and experience of staff, safeguarding and governance -highlighting that most governors have engineering backgrounds themselves which enabled them to use their expertise to support and strengthen leadership.

SWDT has a history of engineering training excellence stretching back more than 55 years to its opening on the same site in 1967. Notable alumni returned to celebrate SWDT’s 50th anniversary in December 2017 in an event led by television personality - and former Spennymoor Black & Decker apprentice - Steph McGovern.

There are currently more than 120 apprentices on Level 3 and Level 4 programmes as well as learners on 16 to 19 full-time courses. SWDT has been part of the Bishop Auckland College Group since 2014.

Jonathan Hall, General Manager at South West Durham Training, said: “The full team of teaching and support staff are delighted with the hugely positive comments made by the Ofsted inspection team.

“The report clearly recognises the quality of teaching and facilities, our close working relationships with employers and the success of the team here at SWDT in achieving our ultimate aim – apprentices and students leaving us with the skills and attributes which add value to the regional engineering sector.

“The inspection was a positive process and the inspectors’ feedback also confirmed a few areas for further development we had identified during the self-assessment process.”

The full report can be found at https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50215846