Now in its seventh decade, Brighton’s Friends Centre – the city’s only organisation dedicated to adult and community learning – recently received a well-deserved and welcome birthday boost from Ofsted. A two-day inspection in January saw the Centre – based in Isetta Square near Brighton Station – recognised as ‘good’ on all counts, with the vast majority of teaching, learning and results viewed not only as very effective but as ‘fun’ and ‘enjoyable’.
Friends Centre’s Principal, Helen Osborne, was delighted:
‘Our talented and committed staff have worked very hard to ensure that we match Ofsted’s rigorous standards. We’re delighted that our achievements have been officially recognised and, more importantly, that our work ensures that the smiles on the faces of our learners reflect the benefits to them in their success and growing confidence.’
Helen’s views were echoed by Chair of Trustees Aidan Pettitt: ‘We’re so pleased Ofsted inspectors agree that our staff create such an inclusive learning environment and help adults overcome barriers to learning. We’re proud of the range of courses we provide, including the courses for refugees, adults with mental health difficulties and people who want to study fashion or art that were picked out for praise by the inspectors.’
Amongst the areas singled out for particular praise, the comments from Lizzy Hawley, a Fashion and Dressmaking learner, are typical: ‘It’s a great course covering a lot in a short space of time. It’s definitely a challenge but I’ve learnt a lot so far. The tutor is very lovely and the centre facilities are also good.’
Overall, Ofsted identified a range of key strengths:
• Well-qualified and experienced tutors who plan learning particularly well, make lessons relevant and interesting, use good teaching strategies to develop learners’ confidence and knowledge and, provide learners with good advice, guidance, support and progression routes and create a welcoming and inclusive environment which helps learners overcome often significant barriers to learning and work.
• Trustees, leaders and managers who have taken very successful action to raise achievement rates; most learners now achieve their qualifications or individual learning goals.
• Learners who take pride in their work, much of which is of a very high standard, gain good social and employability skills, feel safe and usually progress onto further learning, employment, an apprenticeship or volunteering.
• Excellent partnerships with other organisations in the city that ensure that courses meet the city’s needs.
Friends Centre looks forward to many more years of supporting learners in the city to achieve success and grow in confidence. It’s very reassuring to have Ofsted’s confirmation that Brighton and Hove has a really important resource for the future.