Ofsted Watch: Tough week for UTCs as two get 'requires improvement'

University technical colleges have continued to struggle as two more received grade threes this week, while one FE college got its third ‘inadequate’ rating in five years.

South Devon and Buckinghamshire UTCs both had unfavourable reports published on February 26.

It was the second ‘requires improvement’ rating in a row for Buckinghamshire which had just 147 students on roll, with a capacity of 600, in the last academic year.

Inspectors said students are not doing “well enough” in English, maths and science at key stage 4.

“Their overall progress has been well below the national average for the last three years,” the report states.

“The quality of teaching is inconsistent. Expectations of what students can achieve are too low in some subjects, and so students do not make the progress of which they are capable.”

Ofsted added that rates of attendance are “too low”, in particular for disadvantaged students and those who have special educational needs or disabilities.

Leaders’ recent actions to improve attendance have “not yet had time to bear fruit”.

However, the report also pointed out that the recently appointed principal, Sarah Newall, has brought a “renewed sense of purpose to the school”.

She has “quickly strengthened the quality of teaching, learning and assessment and has improved the school’s systems for tracking students’ progress”.

This is the first time South Devon UTC has been subject to an inspection, after opening in September 2015. The college currently has just over 200 students, but teaching and achievements are below national standards.

“Last year, key stage 4 pupils attained well below their capabilities on the school’s flagship engineering programmes,” Ofsted said.

“Teaching is not providing sufficient challenge for the most able pupils. As a result, they are not developing their skills quickly enough.”

Senior leaders have also “not secured consistently effective” teaching across the school as it has grown in size.

Positives however include the fact that the principal has a “clear vision” for the college. “He is ambitious for all pupils and has the skills necessary to bring about the necessary improvement.”

And last year, as a result of the school’s “extensive business links”, all students found places in education, employment or training when they left.

Most UTCs have struggled since the 14-to-19 institutions fist came about in 2011, mainly because they’ve not been able to attract enough pupils to stay financially viable.

Their performance has suffered as a result. In April last year, FE Week revealed that just 39 per cent of UTCs inspected by Ofsted were rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.

Meanwhile Stockport College, which was actually rated ‘outstanding’ in 2008, received yet another grade four this week. Its report repeatedly warned that lessons had not been learned from the previous ‘inadequate’ inspection findings in November 2016.

“Leaders and governors have not reversed the decline in standards since the previous inspection,” it said, nor had they “responded quickly enough to address all weaknesses identified”.

Ofsted did recognise that “partnerships with local employers and key stakeholders are good”, and accepted that the board had been strengthened since the last report.

Two sixth form colleges also had inspection reports published this week. It was ‘good’ news for Connell sixth form college as it climbed up one grade from ‘requires improvement’.

But The Sixth Form College, Solihull didn’t fare as well as it received a grade three in its first inspection since joining the Ninestiles Academy Trust in August.

The only two other Ofsted reports for FE providers this week came in the form of short inspections at two adult and community learning providers.

Maintaining their ‘good’ grades were the Milton Keynes Christian Foundation Limited and Suffolk County Council.


GFE Colleges Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Stockport College 22/01/2018 01/03/2018 4 4


Other (including UTCs) Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Buckinghamshire UTC 23/01/2018 26/02/2018 3 3
South Devon UTC 30/01/2018 26/02/2018 3 3


Sixth Form Colleges Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
The Sixth Form College, Solihull 30/01/2018 28/02/2018 3 N/A
Connell Sixth Form College 15/01/2018 28/02/2018 2 3


Short inspections (remains grade 2) Inspected Published
Milton Keynes Christian Foundation Limited 31/01/2018 01/03/2018
Suffolk County Council 07/02/2018 28/02/2018