EXCLUSIVE: Leading college falls from outstanding to inadequate

One of England’s biggest colleges has fallen from outstanding to the lowest Ofsted grade of inadequate.

City of Liverpool College, which achieved the highest grade almost across the board at previous inspection in early 2009, has been hit with a grade four result.

It was revisited in early February and has been graded inadequate in every one of the headline Ofsted departments.

The report said the college, formerly Liverpool Community College, had too many students turning up late for lessons — if at all — and leave without achieving their qualifications.

“Too many lessons are not good enough as they do not engage students in relevant and interesting activities and there are insufficient checks on their learning,” said the report.

“The new curriculum leadership is not yet effective in bringing about sustained improvements across the college.”

It said there were improvements in leadership, but governors had “not monitored the significant deterioration in student performance.”

However, principal Elaine Bowker and her new senior team “share a clear view of the college’s current weak position and have communicated the urgent need for improvement,” added the report.

Mrs Bowker, who took up post mid-2011, said she accepted the result.

“We accept the report and are working hard to ensure that the areas highlighted as inadequate are improved,” she said.

“We have met with all of our internal teams, from governors to teaching staff, and we are certain that there is a strong commitment to tackle any weaknesses.”

The 17,000-learner college had a turnover of £47.5m for the year ending July 31, 2011, according to Skills Funding Agency figures.

The agency accounts listed the college as England’s 24th largest general further education or tertiary college out of 225, by total income.

The grading blow means it has becomes the biggest grade four college based on turnover.

It comes around seven months after it teamed up with Derbyshire-based provider 3AAA to save more than 500 jobs after First4Skills went into administration.

The joint venture agreement meant the college became responsible for the training of around 10,000 apprentices – becoming one of the country’s biggest providers of apprentice training.

At the same time, the college opened a new £35m Learning Exchange in the city centre to act as a hub for its five main centres.

And last month it announced talks to set up a new English language school in Libya — and possibly a fully-fledged further education college there within five years.

It was not clear whether the grade four inspection blow would hit college plans, but the report made no mention of expansion projects or overseas plans.

“All of our team is completely committed to improving every aspect of college life for our students and this includes improving our Ofsted rating,” said Mrs Bowker.

She added: “While the overall rating is disappointing to us, we would like to stress that there are numerous positive elements within it.

“The report highlights that the college is providing outstanding opportunities for students in other work-based learning which is a key part of the provision we provide.

“It also highlights how safe our college environment is for our students, and this is hugely important to us.”

Other than Liverpool Community College, the most recent grade one to grade four fall happened at Macclesfield College in February 2012.

Click here to download the Ofsted report.