TWO of the county’s main colleges have been given the thumbs-up by Ofsted in their first inspection in six years.

The City of Oxford College and Banbury and Bicester College, where almost 10,000 people study, were visited by inspectors in December.

The colleges, previously known as Oxford and Cherwell Valley College, now come under the umbrella of Activate Learning, which also includes Reading College.

Last Thursday’s report rated them good in all areas, apart from “outcomes for learners” which was said to need improvement.

Activate Learning was told by lead inspector Alex Falconer: “Achievement rates for apprentices on work-based learning programmes declined in 2012/13 and were well below national averages.

“However, the proportion of apprentices aged 16 to 18 successfully completing their programmes by the due date was much better than that of their adult peers.”

The inspectors were impressed by the work of teachers who planned innovative activities to improve entrepreneurial skills and equip pupils with qualities that will help them secure a job in the future.

The report stated: “Many vocational areas have set up ‘Learning Companies’ through which students develop vocational skills.

“A very high number of learners are gaining valuable entrepreneurial and employability skills through these.

“For example, learners on courses in independent living and leisure skills run a shop at two colleges, and public service students run a weekend car parking project.”

Specific courses, such as hospitality and catering, were rated as “outstanding”.

The colleges were last inspected in 2008, when they was also rated as good.

Activate Learning chief Sally Dicketts said: “We believe learning programmes must equip students with real-world skills.

“That can only be achieved by working with employers, developing teaching staff who are experts in their field and ensuring students have access to new technologies and commercial environments.

“Our approach is to work with each individual, to understand their needs and aspirations and develop personalised programmes.”