College in fight to avoid merger after second grade 4 report published by Ofsted

A troubled land-based college has officially been rated ‘inadequate’ for the second time in a row, with Ofsted criticising leaders and governors for failing to improve its performance.

FE Week revealed last month that Moulton College, which is attempting to avoid a merger, was heading for another grade four after the education watchdog found it delivering “unsafe” training in 2018.

Its latest Ofsted report, published today, said the health and safety concerns previously identified have now been rectified, but other areas have seen a drop in performance.

The quality of teaching, learning and assessment has declined

“The quality of teaching, learning and assessment has declined since the previous inspection,” inspectors said.

Self-assessment is “often too generous in terms of grading and does not reflect accurately weaknesses that need to be rectified”.

Teachers’ expectations of students “are too low and, as a result, too many students make insufficient progress”, and attendance levels for learners “is poor across most programmes and is particularly low in sport, English and math lessons”.

Ofsted continued: “Managers do not use data well enough to judge accurately the impact of actions that they have taken, or to inform future actions for improvement.

“Students on vocational programmes, for whom the college receives high needs funding, do not benefit from teaching that meets their specific learning and support needs.”

Moulton College had just over 2,000 learners at the time of inspection, 1,350 were on study programmes, mainly on land-based, sport and construction courses.

Ofsted found that managers and teachers “do not know how many students on 16 to 19 study programmes have completed external work placements”.

However, the inspectorate did point out that a “recently enhanced” board of governors and new leadership team have “changed the culture of the college so that it focuses on the student and staff experience; as a result, staff turnover has decreased, and staff morale has improved”.

Leaders and managers have also rectified “poor behaviour” identified at the previous inspection.

Following the college’s first grade four, its principal Stephen Davies resigned and was replaced by interim Ann Turner.

A permanent principal has since been appointed. Corrie Harris, the current vice-principal at the Bedford College Group, will take the reins from next month.

Reacting to today’s Ofsted report, a spokesperson said: “Moulton College was disappointed with the outcome of the recent Ofsted inspection, which does not reflect the significant progress made in the last 12 months.

“The college is pleased to see that the enhanced board of governors, new leadership team, the change in culture, the high priority placed on ensuring students are safe with very effective, strengthened safeguarding practices, good student behaviour and improved staff morale are all acknowledged.

Governors are confident that we have a stable, passionate committed workforce

“The work on improving teaching and learning has still to have the impact desired, but improvements are ongoing to ensure that every Moulton student receives the best possible student experience.”

Moulton College has been in FE Commissioner intervention since February 2017 due to its poor finances, particularly high levels of commercial loans and falling cash balances, and was recommended to merge.

But with a new chair of governors and an interim principal making improvements to the finances, the college was permitted to follow a standalone strategy and recruit a full-time principal.

Despite the clear financial and quality-of-provision concerns, FE Week understands that Moulton, under the leadership of its new chair David McVean, who started in February 2019, is continuing to pursue a standalone strategy.

The college’s spokesperson said the college has “radically overhauled” its workforce in the past year and governors are “confident that we have a stable, passionate committed workforce”.