College leaders refuse to ‘shy away’ from Ofsted inspection blow

England’s sixth biggest college has fallen from good to inadequate in Ofsted ratings.

City of Bristol College was visited mid-February and has emerged with a grade four result.

College leaders have told of their disappointment with the result, but said they were not “shying away” from the challenges it posed.

The Ofsted report gave the 30,000-learner college inadequate grades in each of the headline fields apart from leadership and management, where it was seen to be in need of improvement.

Inspectors found that “quality of teaching, learning and assessment is inadequate and varies considerably within and between faculties and subject areas.”

The college — England’s sixth biggest with its turnover of £67.5m for the year ending July 31, 2011 — was previously inspected in 2010, when it achieved a good grading.

But, according to the latest Ofsted report, its teachers now paid “insufficient attention to the individual needs of learners and do not challenge learners of different abilities to achieve their potential”.

The report also described learners’ attendance as “very low” and added: “Annual staff appraisal does not use enough management information to measure performance accurately and rarely identifies underperformance.”

However, it also paid tribute to the efforts of new leadership at the college, which has around 2,200 staff.

It said there was “wide commitment by staff to the new vision and mission from the new senior managers and governors which focus strongly on improving teaching and learning and outcomes for learners.”

The report continued: “An impressively positive cultural change, instigated through highly effective communication, is enabling staff to become more responsible and accountable for learners’ outcomes.”

Principal Lynn Merilion, who took up post at the college for the start of the current academic year, said: “Of course the overall grade rating of four is disappointing for us, but the grade is a reflection of where we were.

“Ofsted recognised that we have started the process of change and I’m confident that within the next few years our college will be graded outstanding.”

Among the changes currently under way at the college has been a management restructure in which a new deputy principal in Cliff Shaw, from Yeovil College, has been already appointed.

Four new governors, including chair Dr Richard Eke, have also been appointed, while financial savings from the loss of around 30 posts are to be invested in teaching and learning improvements.

“We have already started to address improvements to make sure that all students receive the excellent teaching, learning and support they deserve,” added Ms Merilion.

“Since joining the College I have been listening to students, parents, staff and other stakeholders and we have a clear vision of where we need to improve and how we will get there.”

Louise McMillan, who joined the college as vice principal around a year ago, added: “Everybody in the college is disappointed by the grade four.

“The term ‘inadequate’ is a hard one and it’s hard to to take when you’re proud of the institution you work for, however, if any one of our learners fails then we fail, and we take that very seriously — we’re not shying away from the Ofsted grade.”