Sunderland City Council's Learning and Skills Service gets 'good' rating from Ofsted

Sunderland City Council's Learning and Skills Service has been praised by education watchdog Ofsted after being transformed from inadequate to good.

By David Allison
Wednesday, 29 May, 2019, 13:55
Sunderland Civic Centre.

The service was found to be inadequate in February 2018.

During its inspection visit in April this year, Ofsted inspectors put five different aspects of the service to the test.

Councillor Louise Farthing.

In their follow up report, Ofsted said: "Since the previous inspection, leaders, managers and staff have rapidly improved the quality of the education and the training that learners receive and arrangements for keeping learners safe."

Welcoming the findings of the report, Councillor Louise Farthing, Cabinet Member for Children, Learning and Skills, said: "We want the very best for all our learners.

"That means helping them achieve the skills and qualifications that they need so they can go out into the world and get jobs that will help our communities.

"But it's also about helping them with the life skills that they need to reach their full potential so they can become valuable members of their communities.

"Everyone involved in the service has worked really hard to achieve this transformation so we're delighted that this has paid off and that Ofsted have rated it good across the board."

Ofsted found that:

• The service has worked well with other council services and external partners to re-engage disadvantaged adults in learning. Employers and other partners value its work in developing learners’ skills, confidence and ability to participate in community and family life.

• Leaders and managers have raised expectations and aspirations for learners, particularly in the communities that they target in the Sunderland area and have successfully strengthened the performance management procedures for subcontractors

• The curriculum is aligned to meet local employment and skills needs, and meet the needs of disadvantaged and isolated learners.

• Programmes are tailored to meet the needs of individuals and communities as well supporting learners who want to return to work to develop skills in sectors where work opportunities are available locally, such as in health and care.

• Learners' progression to higher levels of study, employment and volunteering is good with around two thirds moving on to employment, work related activities or study at a higher level.

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Learners involved with the service have also been positive about its progress, with many saying it has helped them with their confidence, skills which in turn has helped them improve their lives, job prospects and careers.

For some this has been life-changing.

One learner who had previously been homeless described developing skills and knowledge which had helped them to move into their own home.

One person whose life the Learning and Skills Service has helped turn around is 25-year-old Samuel who after being unemployed for a number of years, found work as a home care assistant after attending a three week introduction to care course funded by the city council.

Although he had helped care for members of his own family, Samuel, who had previously worked in a chicken factory, had no professional involvement in the care sector and wanted to progress into the health and social care sector for a change of career.

His tutor, Laura Appleby, said: “We looked at the skills he had developed in this role and with his family to see how we could apply these to a new career path.

“Samuel was a confident person, but he needed to learn some finer skills. After his first week he was soon able to demonstrate a range of positive interpersonal skills with his peers which would hold him in good stead for a career within the health and social care sector.

“As the group progressed to week two and start the qualifications of the course, it was evident that Samuel had a good understanding of the qualities and values required to work in the sector.

"He showed a good understanding of how to develop around a range of different client needs and set goals related to how to achieve his chosen career path.

“Samuel attended all 15 sessions on time (often earlier than required) and completed all workbooks to a high standard in terms of Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar, while fully meeting the national standards for the two qualifications.”

Winnovation, which provides the course on behalf of the Learning and Skills Service, sourced employment opportunities for all those on the course and after applying for three of the companies with vacancies, Samuel successfully secured a job with a local care provider.

Speaking about how the course had helped him, Samuel, who now has a permanent contract with the company, said: “It’s fantastic to be working again after being out of work for a while.

"The Winnovation course and tutors didn’t just support me to find a job but also helped me to build a better understanding of others, improve my life skills and help me to communicate more effectively.”