Arts and media provider to challenge Ofsted ‘inadequate’ rating

An arts and media provider with a large proportion of high needs learners is challenging an ‘inadequate’ report after Ofsted criticised it for not moving enough students onto further study or employment.

Sheffield Independent Film and Television (Shift) was given the lowest possible rating in every category bar one in a report published by the education watchdog today.

Inspectors reported that the quality of provision had “declined” at the provider, after it was rated ‘good’ at its last two inspections in 2013 and 2016.

Shift is the second arts and media provider to be rated ‘inadequate’ in the last month, after Ofsted criticised the employment outcomes for learners at Dv8 Training (Brighton) in January.

In November, chief inspector Amanda Spielman spoke out about the “mismatch” between the numbers of students taking arts and media courses and their “future employment in the industry”.

Speaking at the Association of Colleges’ conference, she said Ofsted’s research on level two qualifications found these courses were giving learners “false hope” and questioned if some providers were chasing income over the best interests of their learners.

Her controversial comments made headlines in The Guardian, The Times and the Daily Mail.

Shift has 51 learners enrolled, around a third of which have high needs, who are on 16 to 19 study programmes in a variety of creative media subjects including digital media, film, television and the cultural industries. 

Its Ofsted report found the proportion of its learners who go on to further study, apprenticeships or employment is “low” and warned that learners make “slow progress” in achieving qualifications and developing skills.

Tutors were criticised for failing to develop individual study programmes for high needs learners based on their education, health and care plans, and for not setting “high enough expectations of what their learners should achieve”.

Attendance was said to be low, with too many learners turning up late and submitting work after the deadlines, but they are met with a “lack of challenge from tutors”.

Inspectors also criticised senior leaders for “weak” performance management of staff and failing to hold them to account well enough for their performance.

However, the small provider has plans to formally challenge Ofsted’s decision.

Bridget Kelly, chief executive of Shift, said: “We don’t agree with the judgement and we are going to challenge it through the complaints procedure.

“Our key focus at the moment is the wellbeing of our students. We are taking external advice on the appeal.”

A grade four report could prove catastrophic for the provider, as the Education and Skills Funding Agency typically terminates government skills funded contracts for private providers who receive the rating.

Shift’s report highlighted several strengths at the provider.

Inspectors found that most learners “enjoy their programme and value the kind and caring approach of staff”, while parents were said to be “appreciative of the support that staff provide to young people, many of whom have had previous negative and unsuccessful experiences of education”.

Careers guidance is “effective and impartial”, and tutors have strong relationships with local employers to provide a “broad variety” of work experience activities.

“Leaders work effectively with local partners and employers in the media sector across the city of Sheffield,” the report added.

“Employers provide meaningful work experience activities that help learners to develop their knowledge and understanding of the creative industries.”

However, it also warned that too few learners – particularly those with high needs – completed the programme and achieved their qualifications, and warned that they do not develop the English or mathematics skills “needed to be successful in future learning or work”.