A major local authority which delivers adult education to more than 12,000 learners has been rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted.
Essex County Council, which was inspected by the education watchdog between December 6 and 9 last year, was found to have serious problems with the teaching of English and maths, as well as having insufficient safeguarding arrangements.
The damning Ofsted report, which was released today, said as a result of poor performance, councillors had taken the decision to end the provider’s provision of 16 to 19 study programmes.
“In 2015/16, too many trainees on traineeships were not progressing to purposeful employment,” the report states.
“Consequently, leaders and county councillors have removed all poorly performing subcontractors.
“They now contract with the local authority’s youth provider, which continues to engage successfully young people with histories of poor educational experience and train the majority of them to find meaningful work.”
Essex County Council is a large provider which delivered courses to 12,227 learners last year. It commissions ‘ACL Essex’ to provide adult education across the whole county, with centres in 13 different towns.”
Inspectors found significant problems with the authority’s tutors who deliver English and maths, where for example, they “do not correct learners’ errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar sufficiently and often pay scant attention to ensuring that learners understand how to structure sentences and paragraphs”.
Other problems highlighted there include too few learners developing a good understanding of the “importance of British values” and how to protect themselves from “the risks associated with radicalisation and extremism”.
Learners are also not kept “safe”, according to the Ofsted inspectors.
“Too many learners, particularly those aged 16 to 18 and vulnerable learners, do not know to whom and how to report their concerns if they do not feel safe,” the report said.
“Managers have not ensured that vulnerable learners attending lessons with other learners at multiple sites across a large geographical area are safe.”
Today’s report is the latest in a downward spiral of adult education performance for Essex County Council over the last nine years, after it was once seen as an ‘outstanding’ place to learn.
Back in June 2008, Ofsted deemed the local authority to be of grade one calibre.
But five years later the authority was slapped down with a ‘requires improvement’ rating.
In order to improve, Ofsted said the provider needs to “urgently ensure that all safeguarding arrangements for all groups of learners are effective”.
It must also ensure that leaders’ self-assessment is “robust, appropriately self-critical and drives effective action planning that secures sustainable improvement”.
The report added: “Leaders should provide county councillors with accurate information on all aspects of performance in order for county councillors to challenge them effectively.”
Ray Gooding, cabinet member for education and lifelong learning at Essex council, said the Ofsted inspection “raises some areas where it is clear we need to improve”.
He told FE Week: “We have taken immediate action on the safeguarding issues identified and these are now in order.
“Some of the other improvements required are longer term, but we will be working with our councillors, service leaders, tutors and assessors to ensure that robust challenge is provided so that learners can develop and improve.”
Essex County Council is the third local authority to receive an inadequate rating since the introduction of the common inspection framework in September 2015.
Wakefield Metropolitan District Council and West Sussex County Council were the previous local authorities to receive the grade four rating, who both were inspected in November 2015 with their reports published the following month.