Ofsted Watch: Tough week for FE as grades fall

Two FE providers have seen their ratings tumble, and two others have received ‘requires improvement’ grades, in the latest reports released by Ofsted.

The independent training provider London Skills and Development Network (LSDN) fell from a grade two to a grade three, with its apprenticeship provision described as ‘inadequate’, in its most recent inspection on October 17.

The provider mainly caters for adult learners working towards qualifications in rail engineering or transport operations, but also provides apprenticeship frameworks in early years, digital media, accountancy and finance. A high proportion of its learners previously served time in prison, and a small number are currently released from prison on license.

According to the report, published on December 6, apprentices do not receive “all elements” of their apprenticeship training programme at LSDN, and too few develop good skills and knowledge or continue into higher training or supervisory roles.

The regulator also criticised “repeated instances of poor behaviour”, low attendance, undemanding teaching and poor careers guidance.

However, it added that a high proportion of learners achieve their qualifications, and the rail engineering programmes particularly help learners who have previously struggled with employment find work. It also commended the “wide range of additional qualifications” on offer including alcohol awareness and heavy lifting.

South Devon College also experienced a drop this week, falling from ‘outstanding’ to ‘good’ with its full-time provision for 14- to 16-year-olds marked ‘requires improvement’.

The report, published on December 7, warned that the college does not take action quickly enough to prevent weaknesses including poor attendance and declining qualification outcomes, and the proportion of learners achieving functional skills qualifications or completing apprenticeships has fallen over the past four years.

The college provides 16-to-19 study programmes, adult provision and apprenticeships, and full- and part-time education is provided for 14- to 16-year-olds through the South Devon High School located on its site in Paignton.

Its school for 14- to 16-year-olds takes on a number of pupils who have struggled at other schools and have “a range of social, emotional or behavioural needs”, but the report warns that staff “are too ready to use learners’ prior difficulties or negative experiences at other schools as a reason for underachievement”.

Ofsted criticised teaching, warning that staff do not plan their lessons well enough to meet different needs and do not push learners to reach their potential or have high enough expectations.

However, it commended the college for a strong focus on progressing learners into higher education, focusing on the needs of the community and offering “a wide range of high-quality work experience placements”.

Sussex Downs College kept its grade three rating in a report published on December 8, which warned that too few students are achieving qualifications, particularly level two maths, or attending maths and English lessons.

Ofsted said teachers do not help students progress or have high enough expectations, and too few have the opportunity to take work experience placements. However, they develop “very good practical skills” and the quality of teaching, learning and assessment was commended for adult students, apprenticeships and high-needs students.

Inspectors also noted “very good” behaviour from students, and said leaders and managers had improvement actions in place which were beginning to have a “positive impact”.

The college, which was inspected on October 31, caters for 5,600 students and has three main sites in Eastbourne, Lewes and Newhaven.

Northumberland-based Skills North East, which also delivers courses in Kidderminster, Doncaster and Hull, received a grade three on its first inspection on November 1.

Ofsted warned that learners are not making “enough progress” to develop skills and are not given enough opportunities to advance in English and maths, nor is enough done to make sure they understand the risks of radicalisation and extremism.

The provider currently has 50 learners on level three programmes, the majority on courses in nail services and nail technology which have a high proportion of learners achieving their qualifications and progressing to employment or higher study.

The regulator also commended the “culture of respect and tolerance” created by leaders, who collaborate to meet the “regional priorities” in each of the provider’s locations.

Three other providers kept their ‘good’ ratings in short inspections published this week: Sandwell College in the West Midlands, New College Swindon and the London Learning Consortium Community Interest Company.

GFE Colleges Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
South Devon College 31-Oct-17 07-Dec-17 2 1
Sussex Downs College 31/20/2017 08-Dec-17 3 3

 

Independent Learning Providers Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
London Skills & Development Network 17/10/2017 06/12/2017 3 2
Skills North East 01/11/2017 08/12/2017 3 N/A

 

Short Inspections  Inspected Published
Sandwell College  15-Nov-17 04-Dec-17
New College Swindon 02-Nov-17 04-Dec-17
London Learning Consortium Community Interest Company 31/10/2017 06/12/2017