London colleges’ decline

A London college that admitted success rates could have been exaggerated by up to 10 per cent two years ago has been hit with an Ofsted grade fall.

Croydon College was rated as in need of improvement, having been graded good following inspection in July 2009.

In 2011, the college’s then new principal, Frances Wadsworth, revealed there could have been a practice of failing to report details of unsuccessful students to boost results and funding.

“Depending on the methodology employed, the effect on overall success rates might lie between 4 per cent and 10 per cent,” she said in a report to governors. A college spokesperson later said the issue had been “rigorously addressed”.

Unreliable data in 2009/10 inflated apparent success rates.”

But it was visited again by Ofsted in December, resulting in the “requires improvement” grading.

It was also told to improve in the two sub-gradings of quality of teaching, learning and assessment; and effectiveness of leadership and management.

However, it was handed an “inadequate” grade for learner outcomes.

The report said: “Unreliable data in 2009/10 inflated apparent success rates to well above the national average for similar colleges.

“In reality, success rates were considerably lower. Accurate data for the following two years confirm that success rates are still too low, although they improved faster in 2011/12 than the average for other colleges.

“The number of students who remain on their programme is at the national average; however, too many students fail to gain the qualification they set out to achieve.”

Nobody from the college was available for comment.

It was the second London college within a week to suffer an overall Ofsted grade fall from “good” to “requires improvement”.

The 5,390-learner Richmond upon Thames College was also inspected in December, following a previous visit in January 2007.

It was told to improve for the three sub-gradings of quality of teaching, learning and assessment; effectiveness of leadership and management; and, outcomes for learners.

The Ofsted report said: “A significant number of [Richmond upon Thames] students do not make the progress they are capable of, particularly on vocational courses. Some teachers do not expect enough of their students when challenging them to fulfil their potential.”

It added: “The quality of teaching, learning and assessment is not consistently good enough and varies too much between, and within, curriculum areas.”

The report was also critical of managers, saying they “do not use the feedback from students and other users to provide an accurate overview of what is good about the college and what requires improvement.”

A college spokesperson declined to comment on the fall in grade specifically.

However, its principal, David Ansell, said he was “pleased” the report recognised overall success rates had improved in the last year “with 100 per cent pass rates in many A-level subjects and that many vocational courses are above the national average”.

He added: “New arrangements to further improve teachers’ professional practice are showing significant benefits in curriculum areas. In addition, the recent changes to the personal tutoring system are enabling teachers to focus solely on students’ learning and progress.”

College governors’ chair Cathy Bird said: “All staff will now work together to ensure performance targets are met and that all students fulfil their potential.”