Colleges ordered to improve

*Since publication of this story, the Department for Education has said that the figures indicating Kingston Maurward needed to improve were incorrect and apologised to the college.

Three colleges have been ordered to improve after falling below the Education Funding Agency’s new minimum standards for key stage five.

In the 2011/12 academic year, South Thames College, Wiltshire College and Kingston Maurward College all failed to get at least 40 per cent of students to achieve an average point score per entry higher than 194 for academic qualifications or 172 for vocational qualifications.

According to the data released in May, 28 academies and 41 community or voluntary schools also fell short of the required standard.

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said: “We have written to South Thames, Wiltshire and Kingston Maurward to make clear that we expect them to address the weaknesses that this measure has highlighted.

“In the event that these colleges are still below the standard next year, further action may be considered.”

The DfE website indicates funding could be reduced or removed, new or alternative provision, such as academy conversion or open competition, considered – or possible closure.

The interim minimum standards were introduced in April to identify poor performance in all colleges and schools offering provision for 16 to 19-year-olds.

In the last academic year at South Thames College, 38 per cent of eligible students (39 out of 102) did not achieve the minimum standard for academic qualifications.

A college spokesperson said: “At South Thames College, we take a long-term view of results and performance indicators.

“[We] recognise that our position in this table does not reflect the many talented and determined students we have.

“We shall continue to review and monitor performance tables and results and use them to inform our long-term plans.”

She said these plans included the college continuing to make “significant investments” in its facilities, teaching and student welfare.

She also highlighted the college’s ‘good’ Ofsted grading, which it maintained after it was inspected in 2012. That year’s report included “positive remarks on the ongoing guidance and support of learners”.

Thirty-two per cent of Wiltshire College’s learners, seven out of 22, met the academic minimum standard while at Kingston Maurward, which failed to meet the vocational standard, 12 per cent of learners, 18 out of 153 of those eligible, achieved higher than the target figure.

No one from Wiltshire College or Kingston Maurward College was available for comment. The Education Funding Agency (EFA) said the interim standards were “the absolute minimum expected performance for all providers of 16 to 18 education or training”.

“By establishing separate measures for performance in academic and vocational qualifications, comparing like with like, we are able to build a clear picture of how institutions are performing in different areas of their level three provision,” it says on the EFA website.

The minimum average point scores are calculated by taking the average of the bottom 5 per cent of scores nationally or the fifth percentile.