Gateshead College appeal Ofsted

Gateshead College has appealed against a “satisfactory” inspection grade awarded by Ofsted after an inspection in May this year.

Principal Richard Thorold told FE Week that its formal complaints followed “inconsistencies” in standards applied during the inspection. “It appears the overall judgement is, in the main, based on historical data.”

He said that the inspectors appeared reluctant to apply a fair judgement to the in-year data. “This is, in my mind, where the inconsistencies are in the way the standards are being applied across inspections.”

The college was judged “outstanding” in its last inspection in 2008.

Mr Thorold said although the college had submitted a formal letter of complaint to Ofsted, it was “not going to dwell on it”.

“At the end of the day our focus is on moving forward,” he said.

“We’re going to make changes where we need to, and get on with our business to deliver outstanding outcomes for all our students, customers and stakeholders in Gateshead and the wider region.”

The Ofsted report, published last week, said: “The proportion of learners who stay . . .  and successfully complete their qualifications has declined since the previous inspection, and there is too much variation in the quality of provision across the college.

“Attendance is often low and, despite the college’s attendance policy, goes unchecked in a few areas.”

However, the report praised work-based learning programmes and said the college was “outstanding” at developing partnerships with other organisations.

Mr Thorold said that “significant strengths” were highlighted, including the college’s partnerships with employers,  inclusive atmosphere, work-based learning, work with the unemployed and young people not in education or employment, and clear strategic direction.

“Our work with employers is reflected in the report and in the grade profile for employer responsive. However, it is only one statement amongst many and it does not truly reflect the holistic picture that I wanted them to draw of the college.”

Stafford College, which in May Ofsted also deemed to be “inadequate”, has also submitted an appeal.

Principal Steve Willis said the informal feedback from inspectors gave a “misleading picture of the quality of work that takes place at this college”.

It  was given a grade 2 when it was last inspected in 2009.

Franklin College is also considering an appeal after dropping from “good” to “inadequate”.

A spokesperson for Ofsted said it did not comment on individual inspections “over and above the published reports”.

“Ofsted does not comment on whether a complaint or concerns have been received about individual providers. Information about the process for investigating complaints about providers can be found on the Ofsted website.”

A BBC Radio 4 programme, broadcast last week, revealed that a growing number of schools are appealing poor inspection results.

Jan Webber, an inspection specialist for the Association of School and College Leaders, told the BBC: “It is OK if it is a consistent judgement for everybody – the greatest issue that we have is inconsistency.  That’s when it causes a lot of angst.”