Newcastle College cuts inspection short after ‘troubling incidents’

Inspectors were asked to leave Newcastle College after staff complained of “troubling incidents” during an inspection.

Ofsted were assessing NCG (formerly Newcastle College Group) in May when the inspection was cut short.

However, inspectors were given permission to return to the college and complete the assessment several weeks later.

An email seen by FE Week and sent to college staff by Dame Jackie Fisher, chief executive of NCG, said: “Unfortunately the inspection came to an untimely end as a result of some troubling incidents.

“However, we finally agreed to allow the inspectors to return and the on-site inspection of NCG has now been concluded.”

A spokesperson for NCG told FE Week in June they “would not normally comment on any inspection process.”

When asked if inspectors were escorted off the college premises during the initial dispute, an NCG spokesperson said “it didn’t happen” and was “absolutely not the case”.

Newcastle College was judged to be “outstanding” by Ofsted in every area of its last inspection report, published in July 2008.

It is thought that the new report, due to be published later this month, will downgrade the college from “outstanding” to “good”.

NCG will be submitting an appeal to Ofsted to try and improve some of the report’s findings.

“Many of you are aware that the Ofsted inspection was not entirely trouble-free,” the email sent to college staff by Dame Jackie Fisher said.

“We are planning to pursue with Ofsted some outstanding matters which may improve the grade profile.

“However, based on Ofsted’s track record in listening to provider complaints, this must be viewed as unlikely, regardless of how strong our case is.” A spokesperson for Ofsted said they were unable to comment on the inspection or individual complaints.

A neighbouring college has also appealed against Ofsted because of “inconsistencies” in the way standards were applied during an inspection carried out weeks before.

Richard Thorold, principal of Gateshead College told FE Week: “It appears the overall judgement is, in the main, based on historical data.”

He added 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.”

Stafford College have also submitted an appeal because of “crucial factual errors” in its inspection report.