'Large-scale incident’ exposes college safeguarding failures in inadequate Ofsted report

Epping Forest College has been rated ‘inadequate’ across-the-board, in an Ofsted report out today that warned of safeguarding failings that emerged through a “large-scale incident” during the inspection.

The education watchdog, which inspected the college between November 15 and 18 last year, found that the safeguarding processes and procedures at Epping Forest failed to “ensure that learners aged 14 to 16, vulnerable adult learners and apprentices are safe”.

It drew attention to a large-scale incident involving learners, during the inspection.

“The level of aggressive behaviour exhibited by a significant minority of learners during a large-scale incident was of concern and presented a threat to the safety of others,” the report said. 

“After a significant length of time, which impacted negatively on lessons, leaders dealt with the incident effectively.

“They have plans in place to increase the capacity of the security team to deal more promptly with any future repeat of such poor behaviour, but actions are yet to be implemented.”

The report on the college, which previously had a ‘requires improvement’ rating, also highlighted weaknesses with protecting the youngest group of learners, saying that “leaders have not considered the safety of learners aged 14 to 16 sufficiently, some of whom are vulnerable due to behavioural issues or who speak English as an additional language”.

It concluded that safeguarding arrangements at the college need to be improved “urgently”.

Epping Forest College is a medium-sized college in West Essex on the outskirts of Greater London which had around 3,000 learners over the previous contract year.

Other problems highlighted there included a continuing decline in the proportion of learners and apprentices making adequate progress; poor attendance and punctuality; and a failure amongst the leadership to monitor progress and work effectively with the local enterprise partnership, employers and wider community.

The report added: “The behaviour of too many learners and apprentices is poor and impacts adversely on the safety and learning of others.”

It added: “Leaders do not monitor the progress of learners and apprentices robustly to understand accurately the strengths and weaknesses of the provision”.

The only strengths identified were good coaching by the majority of teachers in workshops, enabling learners of all ages to develop practical skills well, and a set of action plans to bring about rapid improvement developed by the recently appointed principal Saboohi Famili.

She told FE Week: “We are delighted to report that since the Ofsted visit in November 2016, Epping Forest College has proactively addressed the safeguarding issues that were identified.

“Recent visits from Epping Forest District Council and Essex County Council safeguarding officers confirm the significant improvements that are made to ensure our learners feel safe and are safe at our College.

“The new leadership of the college remain focused on ensuring swift actions are taking place to remedy the weaknesses found at the inspection.  We look forward to working with our colleagues, the FE commissioner and Ofsted, to ensure the college makes the urgent improvements that are needed whilst planning for creating sustainable change across all areas of the organisation.

“The new college governing body and leadership of the college has high aspirations for the future and are confident that these can be achieved as outlined in our Vision 2020 strategic plan.”