Ofsted reveals improvements to Calderdale Council's learning service

Calderdale Councils director for adults and childrens services, Stuart Smith
Calderdale Councils director for adults and childrens services, Stuart Smith

A Calderdale Council community learning service which required improvement is now rated as “good” following its latest inspection by regulator Ofsted.

The Council is now rated as a good provider of community learning and skills, with effective leadership allowing learners to grow, achieve highly on courses leading to qualifications and meet personal development goals on non-accredited programmes.

A high proportion of learners progressed to higher levels of study, work-related activities or employment on completion of their course and learners’ achievements on programmes leading to qualifications are good.

The council’s adult learning provision is delivered through the adult and community learning service Calderdale Adult Learning (CAL), which provides courses for around 3,800 adults every year, courses ranging from information and communication technology to languages, literacy, numeracy and “preparation for life”.

CAL also offers family learning in partnership with a large number of schools in the borough and similarly with six sub-contractors delivers learning in some of the borough’s most deprived communities.

The team of five inspectors led by lead inspector Tracey Mace-Akroyd said leaders, managers and staff had tackled successfully most of the areas for improvement identified in the last inspection in 2016.

After their four-day inspection visit in January and February this year they concluded: “They have raised expectations and aspirations for learners, particularly in the communities that they target in Halifax.”

Strong links with sub-contractors, local enterprise partners, agencies and voluntary organisations enabled CAL to provide a responsive curriculum which meets local and regional skills priorities and the needs of the most isolated and disadvantaged communities.

Actions were managed and planned effectively by leaders and managers whose self-assessment was largely accurate and highly self-critical, said the inspectors.

In turn councillors demonstrate a high level of support and investment in maintaining high quality adult learning provision, ensuring the council’s high aspirations are met and performance targets achieved.

The result is Ofsted rating the authority’s service as “good” in every aspect.

“Teachers are skilled in planning and delivering high quality and interesting learning activities…teachers set high expectations for learners (and) use their specialist skills well,” says the report.

In family learning lessons, learners report they are able to help their children understand English and mathematics better as a result of their course and the learning activities have a positive impact on behaviour in school and family life.

“Learners grow in confidence; they develop very good personal, social and, in many cases, work-related skills that prepare them well for the future,” said the inspectors.

To improve further the authority should ensure learners’ long-term goals include work related skills, improve development of mathematical skills, deploy support staff in lessons more effectively, take action to improve learners’ understanding of the risks of radicalisation and establish clear links between the purpose of non-accredited programmes and the council’s own key priorities.

Calderdale Council’s director for adults and children’s services, Stuart Smith, said: “It’s great news that Calderdale Adult Learning has received such a positive Ofsted report.

“A lot of hard work has gone into making improvements in the service and I’m pleased that this has now been formally recognised with a ‘good’ rating.

“The service offers a variety of fantastic learning opportunities, which supports local communities to access learning and employment, reducing social isolation and improving emotional health and wellbeing.

“This is a service we’re very proud to provide and I’m sure it will go from strength to strength.”