Fourth consecutive grade three Ofsted report for college surviving on bailouts

A college that is dependent on government bailouts to survive has been hit with a fourth consecutive grade three rating from Ofsted.

Lambeth College finally merged with London South Bank University in February after a two-year delay and leaders were praised by the inspectorate for working “hard” since then to “change the culture of the college to one that supports learners and staff to achieve”.

There has been other “significant change since the previous inspection when all aspects of the provision were judged as requiring improvement”, including the appointment of a new permanent executive principal in late 2018 and a new senior leadership and middle management team.

We recognise that there are still areas for development

The education watchdog was impressed with improvements in adult education courses, high needs learning, and personal development, behaviour and welfare, with all three areas individually receiving ‘good’ ratings.

However, the impact of the college’s work in addressing areas of weakness identified at the previous inspection “is not yet consistent across all aspects of provision”.

Ofsted found that “too few” study programme learners, of which there are around 1,200 aged 16 to 18, achieve their qualification.

The proportion of apprentices who achieve their qualification within the agreed timeframe is also “too low”.

Teachers “do not routinely support learners well enough to develop their English and mathematical skills in their vocational subjects”, and they “do not use the information they have about learners’ prior educational experience or achievements consistently or effectively enough to plan and teach lessons”.

Overall it trains just over 9,000 learners every year.

Fiona Morey, executive principal of Lambeth College, said: “We are delighted that the hard work and dedication of staff at Lambeth College, and the high aspirations we hold for all our students, have been recognised.

“It is extremely pleasing that the inspectors could see that ‘the college’s mission to ensure access to learning that raises the aspirations and skills of residents in South London’ is central to all that we do.”

Until recently, three or more consecutive grade three Ofsted reports would automatically have qualified the college for a grade four.

Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman told FE Week in November that she had changed this rule when she took on the top job at the inspectorate in January 2017 “because I thought it was flawed in conception”.

Morey said Lambeth “recognises that there are still areas for development, and we are working hard to address these”.

Lambeth College was previously rated ‘inadequate’ until it improved to a grade three in 2013.

It has been in big financial trouble since 2016, when a “significant deterioration” in its cashflow prompted an intervention by the former FE commissioner Sir David Collins.

We are delighted that the hard work and dedication of staff at Lambeth College has been recognised

His report, based on a visit that September, found problems with the college’s finances that were so severe it was “no longer sustainable” unless it merged.

Since then, the college has been in need of bailouts from the Department for Education.

According to its 2017/18 accounts, it owes almost £15.5 million in exceptional financial support, and has agreed a support package from the restructuring facility worth £15.8 million.

“The college made a further large loss in 2017/18, it remains dependent on exceptional financial support from the government and its financial position is accurately described as ‘inadequate’”, the financial statements said.

Staff have been on strike at the college for a total of 10 days since November in a row over pay.

But the latest walkouts planned for June were called off after union members managed to negotiate a 3 per cent pay rise, additional leave and a reduction in teaching hours.