The nation’s largest college has won its battle with Ofsted with the awarding of a grade two overall – more than four months after it was inspected.
Today’s long overdue report comes two weeks after FE Week reported that the college group had been disputing the ‘requires improvement’ grade it was due to have been given.
In the end the education watchdog only handed out one ‘requires improvement’ – for apprenticeship provision – with the other eight headline fields all being rated ‘good’.
The inspection, which took place from May 9 to 13, and on June 28, covered the four colleges within the group – Newcastle College, Newcastle Sixth Form College, Kidderminster College and West Lancashire College.
Inspectors praised the group’s leadership, particularly the chief executive, for establishing a “more collaborative and consultative management culture” and noted that “after a period of decline, most 16- to 19-year-old learners now make good progress”.
The report also found that staff “provide excellent support learners and create a positive rapport in the classrooms”.
The “quality of teaching and learning” had improved as teachers had “engaged enthusiastically” with the colleges’ professional development programme.
But inspectors also noted a number of issues in particular areas – including the quality of provision at West Lancashire College, which “needs further improvement”.
In addition, “too many learners in 2014/15 did not achieve as well as expected on A- and AS-level courses at Newcastle Sixth Form College” and “not enough apprentices achieve their qualification within their planned timescales”.
Joe Docherty, NCG chief executive, called today’s result “welcome news”.
He said: “I am pleased that all four NCG colleges have been assessed as Grade 2 good in their recent Ofsted inspection.
“I am especially pleased that the report highlights the professionalism and dedication of colleagues within our four colleges and the positive difference they make to ensure that learners are given the chance to develop their skills, achieve their qualifications and positively progress in their lives and careers.”
The inspection did not cover the other two NCG members, Rathbone Training and Intraining, which are inspected separately.
As previously reported by FE Week, the delay in publishing the report was likely due to a dispute over disappointing recent retention and overall achievement rates.
For example, NCG’s overall retention rate for level two 16- to 18 year-olds in 2014/15 stood at 15.6 per cent below the national average for a general further education college, while the overall achievement rate at level three (formerly known as the success rate) for that age group was negative 7.5 per cent.
NCG had previously insisted that this data was “misleading” because it was “for all NCG provision including national charity Rathbone, which works exclusively with young people not in education, employment or training, and national private training provider Intraining, both of which have national performance benchmarks lower than those of FE colleges”.