Two large colleges pull back from inadequate Ofsted ratings

Two large colleges pull back from inadequate Ofsted ratings

Two large colleges have pulled back from ‘inadequate’ Ofsted ratings – with both recognised for improved performance in reports out this morning.

City of Bristol College and North Shropshire College have now been rated grade three.

Inspectors recognised in today’s report on the former, which was rated grade four 17 months ago, that “senior leaders have recruited specialist managers and staff with relevant skills and experience”.

This had led to “improvements in the quality of provision for learners and a positive change in the expectations of staff and learners”.

They said the college now had “strong leadership”, while at the time of the previous inspection, it “was in a precarious financial situation – the principal [Lee Probert] was new, the senior leadership team was incomplete”, and staff and learners’ expectations were low.

“Since then, senior leaders and governors have secured a better financial position, halted the decline in poor achievement rates and driven forward improvements in the quality of provision across the college.”

But looking to the future, it warned there is still not enough provision “which is good”.

All different provision was rated grade three, except for courses for people with special needs and adult provision which were both ‘good’ (grade two).

Inspectors also recognised that learners received good-quality advice and guidance “throughout their time” at City of Bristol.

But the report warned: “Staff do not coordinate this effectively enough to provide learners with a detailed action plan that moves them towards their careers or next steps; a few learners are unclear of their next steps.”

“The progression of learners and apprentices from one level of course to another, especially from level two to level three, is low,” it added.

Mr Probert said: “With the full support of the city, we have worked tirelessly since January last year delivering improvements for our students and I’m delighted that we are no longer judged to be ‘inadequate’.”

He added: “We asked for an early inspection in order to secure access to the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers; this means we knew we would go into the inspection with no new data about student success for the current academic year.

“We also know we have not yet achieved everything that we want to, but the fundamental improvements we have made in the key areas of quality of teaching and learning, and student progress and attendance, will ensure those results are much more positive.” 

North Shropshire College, which was rated ‘inadequate’ last January, was graded three for all areas in the latest report, except adult learning programmes which was ‘good’.

It was positive about learners’ personal development, behaviour and welfare, saying “they develop a wide range of skills that support them to move successfully to their next steps into further learning or employment”.

Inspectors added that governors and senior leaders had transformed the college’s approach to protecting learners. “A strong culture of safeguarding now permeates the college at all levels,” the report said.

Adult learning programmes, rated ‘good’, were also praised.

The report said: “Local issues are identified in consultation with employers and relevant courses provided to fill labour shortages.

“Courses have been successfully established to respond to the needs of Syrian refugees. Unemployed adults benefit from short, intensive employability courses to improve their job-seeking skills.”

But it added: “Despite improvements in some areas, managers’ actions have not yet resulted in consistently good teaching, learning and assessment.”

City of Bristol College, with four main campuses across Bristol, had 14,100 learners over the previous contract year.

North Shropshire College is based on two main campuses at Oswestry and Baschurch, with smaller specialist centres in Shipley, Burford and Wem. It had 2,222 learners over the previous full contract year.

The new report recognised that it has made a federation agreement with Reaseheath College, in Nantwich, and is “actively working towards merger”.

Interim principal Peter McCann said: “I know I can speak for myself, the senior leadership team and the board of governors who are proud of the cultural change within the college.

“It is very difficult for a college to be assessed by Ofsted as improving two grades from ‘inadequate’ in learning and skills within the timescale of re-inspection; indeed only one college has achieved this nationally under the revised Ofsted framework.

“That said I believe, as the report states, the changes being made are showing impact but we need to ensure that we reach every part of the college and not just the 80 per cent who have made excellent progress to date.”