KIRKLEES College has undergone an “astounding” transformation over the last year.
The college has had a meteoric rise through the national college success tables according to statistics just released.
Out of 300 further education colleges in the UK, Kirklees has risen from 230th in 2009/10 to 17th in 2010/11.
This is according to league tables compiled by The Data Service, an independent organisation established and funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. It is also supported by the Skills Funding Agency to act as a single, central point of information for further education.
The student pass rate at Kirklees College is now 95% – 10% higher than a year ago and well above the national average of 90%.
The results follow the Ofsted report in April this year which were based on 2009/10 results. It gave the college only ‘satisfactory’ or ‘inadequate’ grades in all areas.
New Principal Peter McCann, who took over in June, acknowledged the difficulties of the past and paid tribute to staff.
He said that problems had been brought about by the 2008 merger of Huddersfield Technical College and Dewsbury College which had been significantly underachieving.
“Mergers destabilise an institution and often lead to a short term dip in terms of student success rates,” he said. “It is not an excuse, but it is a factor.
“We feel that we let the community and our students down. Our success rates were not good enough.
“The Ofsted report was a real shock and staff were initially depressed, but they have rolled their sleeves up and responded magnificently.
He added: “It has been quite an outstanding journey and a wonderful transformation over the last 12 months.
“Our vision now is to make Kirklees College the best further education college in the country.”
To tackle the problems, team leader success coaches were appointed to each of the college’s 14 departments. They identified students who were at risk of dropping out of college or failing their exams and worked with them individually.
The college has also employed a flexible approach which has included extra tutorials and remote access to information for some students.
The majority of students at the college come from the more deprived neighbourhoods of Kirklees and one third of them are from black and ethnic minority backgrounds.
Mr McCann, who was previously Deputy Principal at Leeds, was particularly pleased that the table, which takes a student’s background and previous qualifications into account, placed Kirklees College in the top quarter of all schools and colleges.
He acknowledged there was still much work to be done, particularly in improving the drop out rate of 14% which is slightly worse than the national average.
By September 2012 the college will have left its Huddersfield campus alongside the ring road and opened its new Waterfront base now being built on a site stretching from Chapel Hill to Manchester Road.
Work has now started on the new £7.5m specialist engineering centre on Turnbridge Road, off St Andrew’s Road.
Mr McCann described the debt on the new centres under construction as a “significant financial drain,” but added: “The development at the Waterfront and the engineering centre are absolutely essential for Huddersfield and the future generation.
“They are 21st century facilities that will deliver 21st century skills.”