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Coulsdon College principal: 'I knew exam results would pick up'

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THE principal of a college once branded "inadequate" by inspectors says he has been vindicated after he promised results would improve earlier this year.

Coulsdon Sixth Form College was upgraded to "good" by Ofsted in April, after it was taken over by Surrey's Reigate College in March 2013, and the college celebrated a 99 per cent A-level and BTEC pass rate this year.

When he took charge in January, principal Brett Freeman was "absolutely certain" results would improve and this week he said a new culture and work on four key areas - student discipline, attendance and punctuality, teaching quality and literacy - had helped.

"When I came in, I could see already that the changes that been earmarked by Reigate would mean results would pick up enormously," he said.

"The changes we made meant students were here, they weren't dropping out and they were happy, and, as the Ofsted report said, really courteous as well."

A new culture of "openness, respect and teamwork" had helped drive improvement, said Mr Freeman, who added teachers were encouraged to play the role of "domestique" - the Tour de France cyclists who enable the team's stars to succeed.

"The students are the ones that have got to get over the line first, our job as teachers is to fill that domestique role. We're not trying to trip them up on the way to the line. We are there as part of one team for their success and making them see that A-levels and BTECs are not an end point, they're a jumping off point."

April's inspection noted a "significant improvement" in attendance and punctuality and Mr Freeman said the college was "just not tolerating" lateness or disruptive behaviour.

"If students aren't here to learn, then I don't want them here. If students are here disrupting the learning of others, I don't want them here."

So far this year 15 students have been sent home for turning up late more than once, he said.

"It's a terrible answer, but if I keep telling them that punctuality is important and they're late, then I've got to do something about it.

"Students not being in lessons is the worst thing. It sounds contradictory, but we know already that attendance and punctuality has improved enormously because we're meaning what we've said."

Though Mr Freeman said he was proud of the improved results at the college, he was especially pleased with an improvement in the number of students who completed courses of "around 15 per cent".

"I could kick out half my kids halfway through the upper sixth, and get a 100 per cent pass rate, easy. But that's not what it's about. It's about allowing all students to be successful," he said.

"You will see statistics which are published all over the place about pass rates, in some 'more prestigious' institutions. 

"If you start talking about success rates, then you're talking about how many people started and completed, not just how many people passed. That is key to a successful institution."

Mr Freeman said raising the quality of the college would lead to a change in the way it is viewed by the wider public.

"Reputation takes a long time to turn around. There is only one way, to raise quality and maintain it at the highest possible level.

"The basic rule for staff, whether you're teaching, marking, praising, disciplining, you do it in a way in which you'd want your own child to be treated. If we're getting that right and we continue to raise quality, people can't ignore it."

Mr Freeman singled out a new extra-curricular programme for special mention.

"One thing that we've started is our 'Young Leaders of Tomorrow' programme. The students who are performing at the highest level, either academically or otherwise, are enrolled on to that and encouraged to become leaders, through various talks and seminars and trips and activities, to put them in a position where they can apply for the top jobs and the top universities."

He said the college was focused on "maintaining the quality we've got" and "showing students the positive future that's out there. I think that'll lead to even better results."

Coulsdon College principal: 'I knew exam results would pick up'


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