‘Outstanding’ Ofsted report sees Birkenhead Sixth Form College remain top of the class

Birkenhead Sixth Form College’s status as an outstanding provider of education has been cemented by the latest report from Ofsted.

The UK’s education watchdog has awarded the College, which is the area’s only specialist sixth form, the top grading of ‘outstanding’ in 2024, following on from the previous report in 2026-17 which saw us achieve maximum scores in all areas of inspection.

Ofsted’s findings celebrated the College’s students’ high academic grades and attainment, their enjoyment of their studies, the life opportunities that attending the College affords, and the superb quality of teaching.

While the 2016-17 ‘Outstanding’ report recognised the institution’s ‘journey of transformation’ to become a leader in A Level and BTEC education for Wirral, Merseyside and Cheshire, this year’s inspection solidifies the College’s place as a beacon of local and national excellence.

Ofsted’s report released this week from their visit and inspection in April 2024 highlighted the quality of education and experience for all students, and said, “All staff have very high aspirations of what students can achieve irrespective of their starting points or background. Consequently, students develop their resilience, confidence and self-belief through their studies.

“Students develop a passion for the subjects that they study. They feel respected and thrive in the calm and inclusive learning environments that staff create.”

Birkenhead Sixth Form College is the most popular choice in Wirral for A Level study, and students join from nearly 60 different high schools each year after GCSEs.

Last year’s A Level high grades at the college were a cause for national acclaim as they bucked the countrywide trend of a downturn since students returned to sitting formal exams, and instead saw a 15% rise in achievements. The College’s grammar school profile cohort also outshone their contemporaries in Wirral selective schools in high grades, with 80% receiving A* – B in their A Levels.

While also pointing out that the vast majority of the college’s 1400 plus students go onto degree courses or higher or degree apprenticeships, Ofsted also heaped praise on the college for specialist subject teachers and the impact that they have on each student’s time in education.

They said, “Teachers have significant experience and are experts in their subjects. They use a variety of highly effective teaching strategies to help students to retain knowledge over time. Teachers skilfully help students to understand how concepts and ideas are related.

“Students enjoy their learning. They say that their teachers make learning interesting and lively and that they are given the freedom to be creative.”

Ofsted’s re-awarding of ‘outstanding’ follows a hat-trick of award wins for Birkenhead Sixth Form College last year, with leading awards in education naming us ‘College of the Year 2023’ and ‘Most Inspirational Sixth Form’.

Principal at Birkenhead Sixth Form College, Mike Kilbride, said, “I have the privileged position to watch and observe what our staff and students achieve every day, and that means that Ofsted’s findings actually come as no surprise to me.

“This is not to be confused with any arrogance or misplaced confidence. My instruction to staff after the standard one day’s notice for Ofsted inspection was to simply continue what they do each day – let them see us for what we are.

“I am humbled by the abilities and the hard work of these inspiring individuals all around me, and that is what empowers me with belief. This recognition from external bodies does not come about by accident: it is the result of ambition on behalf of students, of never being complacent in our approach, and above all, of being unwavering in our commitment to doing the right thing.”

Mike continued, “We are not ashamed to have high academic expectations. That encompasses every student, whichever school they come to us from or whatever they have attained previously in education. What they can accomplish at this College is limitless, and they prove this year upon year.”

Mike has overseen Birkenhead Sixth Form College’s establishment as the first choice sixth form destination in the region, with innovation and the science of learning governing his and the College’s ethos.

He said, “The report from Ofsted is enormously gratifying. Certainly it recognises that our approach works and it stands testament to constantly evolving and analysing what we do to provide the best for young people. But it is also hugely pleasing to have yet more conformation that our students enjoy their time with us.

“To combine life-changing academic achievement with a holistically positive experience enhances every facet of a young person’s future prospects. Our staff, teachers and support staff alike, have a huge amount to be proud of.

“This College exists to change the educational landscape and offer students a genuine alternative after their GCSEs – an alternative to selective schools, to being left behind in their current system or to becoming stuck in an institution that does not help them be the best versions of themselves possible. This is a place that raises aspirations from any starting point, higher or lower GCSE achievement, and we do it in an environment that is proven to make young people thrive.”

Mike concluded, “The re-affirming of our Outstanding status from Ofsted is not the end of our achievements, but another positive marker on our continuing journey that we look forward to sharing with our students now and those joining us in the future.”

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