College with TV star Martin Clunes as chancellor hailed as 'outstanding' by Ofsted

Martin Clunes is best known for his role in the Cornwall-based drama Doc Martin. Ian West/PA Wire
Martin Clunes is best known for his role in the Cornwall-based drama Doc Martin, but he's also Chancellor of Hartpury College and University -Credit:PA

Hartpury College has retained its 'Outstanding' rating following an Ofsted inspection that took place earlier this year. Inspectors had observed a welcoming, respectful, and inclusive culture where students of all ages, including those with high needs, expressed pride in studying at Hartpury College and they noted the exemplary behaviour of students as well as their high attendance rates and strong commitment to their studies.

The college, and university, has actor and presenter Martin Clunes as Chancellor. The star of Doc Martin and Men Behaving Badly serves as the honorary head of both specialist educational institutions, representing Hartpury in a ceremonial and ambassadorial capacity.

The inspection took place from February 27 to March 1 2024 and within the report, Ofsted revealed that Hartpury College had been awarded an overall effectiveness rating of 'Outstanding' in all areas including the quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development, leadership and management, education programmes for young people, adult learning programmes, apprenticeships, and provision for students with high needs. The inspectors also concluded that the college makes a ‘strong contribution’ to meeting skills needs which is the top grade possible.

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Hartpury College has been ‘Outstanding’ since May 2018, when it was inspected under a previous Ofsted framework. Despite the new framework making the ‘Outstanding’ rating even more challenging, retaining this highest grade reflects the institution’s ongoing commitment to uphold the highest standard of education and student support.

Deputy Principal of Hartpury College Claire Whitworth. said: “As Deputy Principal, I am incredibly proud of my team and of course all the students who contributed to this fantastic achievement. Retaining Ofsted Outstanding for a second consecutive inspection over a six-year period is testament to the incredible efforts of all our staff who make our Hartpury student experience what it is. They not only support students to achieve their main qualification, but also focus on the development of a plethora of employability skills and attributes alongside advancing softer skills such as confidence and resilience, ultimately providing solid foundations for lifelong success.

“Not only did we achieve ‘Outstanding’ in all areas, but we were also appraised as making a ‘strong contribution’ to meeting skills needs. This is such an important aspect of what we do and really does reflect how well our offer aligns with skills requirements related to current and future job toles in support of the local, regional, and national economy. I would like to thank all the external stakeholders who we work with, of whom there are far too many to mention, for their ongoing support and commitment to Hartpury College and in helping us shape our offer for students.

“Finally, a phrase that I heard mentioned a few times over the inspection period was that ‘the air at Hartpury crackles with positivity’. This, to me, really does sum up Team Hartpury.”

Hartpury University & College Centre
Hartpury College retains Ofsted Outstanding and receives top rating for meeting skills needs

Hartpury College’s strong contribution to meeting industry skills needs was a particular highlight of the report’s conclusions, as leaders work closely with a wide range of stakeholders, employers and community groups including the Hollie Gazzard Trust, Tallis Amos Group, Three Counties Vets, Woburn Safari Park, Western Arable, Team GB Sports, and the Football Association.

Staff were praised for their exceptional work with the Employer Representative Body, Business West, and the Federation of Small Businesses, to understand the needs of employers, almost all of whom are small- and medium-sized enterprises. Recent investment in capital and physical resources to meet gaps in digital skills in agriculture was highlighted as a good example of work with strategic stakeholders including the Local Enterprise Partnership, the Local Skills Improvement Plan, and the Gloucestershire Economic Strategy. Taken together, this approach ensures students gain vital employability skills and knowledge.

Principal of Hartpury College, Professor Andy Collop said: “Retaining our Outstanding rating is testament to the dedication and hard work of our staff, whose passion for what they do creates a dynamic learning environment for our students.

“While an Ofsted inspection can be an apprehensive process, I have full confidence in our team of teaching and support staff who are committed to helping students attain excellent qualifications, learn vital skills, and leave Hartpury ready for their next steps in life. I’m delighted that the inspection found evidence of our high standards of education and support and reached such positive conclusions about the student experience. We’ll continue to work hard in the months and years to come to maintain these high standards in all areas.”

Hartpury College was also commended for its overall emphasis on preparing students for their careers or further study, highlighting the careers support and guidance on offer, as well as how most students study additional qualifications outside of their main qualification. The programme of guest speakers and practical sessions was described as ‘comprehensive’, noting the practical teaching sessions given to Uniformed Protective Services (UPS) students, in which visiting Royal Marine Commandos demonstrated how to prepare and cook healthier meals.

The curriculum was recognised as being well-planned, balancing theoretical and practical elements, and providing an opportunity for students to apply their learning and skills effectively through practical activities and in work placements. For example, animal care students use the animal handling skills they’re taught at college within workplace settings including wildlife parks, dog spas, veterinary centres, and kennels.

Many students enjoy participating in the college’s extensive ‘Hartpury Active’ health and fitness initiative, as well as various social clubs and arts, crafts, and cultural classes. The report also praised the recreational sports teams that increase participation for every student, an integral part of college life alongside the highly acclaimed sports academies.

Teachers were commended for empowering students to support communities and good causes, too. Examples include the women’s football team donating gift boxes to the Samaritans to distribute to people in crisis, and the men’s football teams raising money to improve the lives of sick and disabled children in Gloucestershire.

Importantly, students feel safe when studying at Hartpury College and safeguarding was recognised as a top priority. Inspectors made observations about how teachers ‘skilfully’ facilitate discussions around sensitive topics so students can live safe and healthy lives. In addition, leaders have introduced ‘active bystander’ training for students to help to raise their awareness of what is acceptable behaviour, and when and how to report something that does not feel right.

Hartpury College’s quality improvement process was described as thorough and effective, with governors both supporting and challenging leaders well. The college’s commitment to the continued professional development (CPD) of staff ensures that teachers are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to deliver high-quality education.

Mr Clunes, speaking when he was announced as Chancellor back in February, said : “I’m deeply honoured to be appointed as the inaugural Chancellor of Hartpury University and Hartpury College. I look forward to sharing many of my passions and interests with like-minded students, staff, governors and alumni and am excited to share in their numerous success stories.

“I also look forward to advocating for the University and College’s many impressive achievements, helping to champion and support Hartpury at an exciting time in its 75-year history.”