STUDENTS and staff at one of the region’s leading 11-18 colleges are celebrating after receiving stunning praise from Ofsted inspectors.
Carmel College was awarded the highest accolade of outstanding across the board by Ofsted inspectors following a two-day visit to the Darlington school.
Inspectors were so impressed that the academy is to be mentioned in the Ofsted annual report within a section focussing on outstanding schools and colleges.
The official endorsement is the latest in a string of successes including record results, national praise by Minister of State for Schools David Laws and the college being placed top in the country by the similar schools measure of the School Performance Tables.
Carmel College has been gauged outstanding, securing its reputation as one of the best establishments in the country.
Principal and Carmel Education Trust chief executive officer Maura Regan said: “The reason I am so proud is that this isn’t just about academic achievement.
Everyone here shares the vision, a vision based on respect, understanding and empathy. Everyone knows what they have to do and no one wants to disappoint.
“Inspectors recognised during their visit that this vision determines every aspect of college life. I asked if they ‘would you send their children to Carmel?’ and they said yes, undoubtedly.”
Chair of directors Cyndi Hughes added: “I am proud and pleased with the excellent academic and personal progress made by all young people at Carmel. This outstanding result is testament to the teamwork and culture of ambition embraced by all.”
The inspectors awarded the college outstanding status for behaviour, safety and achievement of pupils, quality of teaching and leadership and management.
The report stated: “This is an outstanding school. Students’ outstanding progress and high achievement are driven by the college’s aspirational target-setting. Ensuring success for every student is at the heart of the college’s work.
“Student behaviour is exemplary in classrooms and during social times. Outstanding pastoral care ensures that students feel and are safe and secure at college.
“Directors hold the college robustly to account for its performance. Together with the principal, they provide inspirational vision for the development of the college within the Multi-Academy Trust.”
As well as observing 50 lessons and talking to staff, inspectors also quizzed students about life at the College.
Head girl Rosie Passman, 17, of Darlington, said: “We got so excited talking about the college the poor inspector spent most of the time with her head down scribbling notes. I love Carmel and enjoy coming to college. The relationship you have with teachers is amazing and we all feel privileged and proud to come here.”
Fellow sixth former Tom Bussey, 17, of Newton Aycliffe, transferred from a local secondary school to take his A Levels at Carmel.
He said: “I fell in love with the college immediately and these really are the best years of my life. I love music and the opportunities available at Carmel have been incredible.”
Inspectors were particularly impressed with the views of the 1689 Group, a student-led club which works to increase awareness about special educational needs. The group raised funds to buy a wheelchair so every student could experience what life is like for people with disabilities.
Callum Ord, 15, of Darlington, said: “We told the inspectors about the wheelchair project and they thought it was a great idea. We also told them how safe we felt at college and about the fantastic support we receive.”
Jake Todhunter, 15, of Darlington, said: “We just told them the truth that we enjoy college and they were impressed to hear that the college had taken me to France, which was my first trip abroad.”
Louise Bryson, 16, of Darlington, added: “We feel really proud that the inspectors have recognised that our college is outstanding.”
The Multi-Academy Trust comprises Carmel College, St Michael’s Academy, Billingham, Holy Family RC Primary School and St Augustine’s RC Primary School, Darlington and St Gregory’s Catholic Academy and St Bede’s Catholic Academy, Stockton.
Within the trust Carmel College sets the standards with 91 per cent of pupils achieving 5A* to C GCSEs, including English and maths, this year and a 100 per cent pass rate at A Level, with more than half achieving the highest grades of A* to B.
Miss Regan added: “It is not in my nature to sit back and relax; it is not in any of our natures and that is why we are so successful. We will continue to look for ways to improve, particularly with innovative ways of developing pioneering leadership models across the trust.”