Notts ‘college’ funding terminated

A multi-site “college” is to have its funding contracts terminated, after serious safeguarding failures were exposed in a damning Ofsted report.

City College Nottingham, a private training provider with eight campuses across the Midlands, laid off staff and stopped taking on new enrolments ahead of the publication of a grade four inspection report on December 20.

FE Week exclusively revealed the safeguarding concerns in November.

They were later laid bare in Ofsted’s report: learners can “easily access inappropriate materials on college computers, including pornography” and staff and students do not feel “safe” because they “cannot be sure whether anyone on site is supposed to be there or not”.

A Department for Education spokesperson this week told this newspaper that “termination letters were issued to City College Nottingham on 24 December. We are meeting with the provider later this week to go through the next steps of our contract termination process, in line with our published intervention guidance”.

The spokesperson would not reveal the contract termination date, but the Education and Skills Funding Agency typically gives providers three months to wrap up.

At the time of the inspection, 191 learners were on adult learning programmes and there were 110 apprentices.

Nottingham College had a £1 million subcontracting agreement with City College Nottingham to train 300 of its learners, but terminated it in November when the safeguarding concerns first came to light. The majority of students have since been transferred to courses within Nottingham College.

Ofsted was drafted in after a whistleblower brought concerns to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

The watchdog’s report said that not all learners had been issued with identity badges, but that a few “are particularly concerned for their safety while on college sites, and inspectors agreed with them”.

Inspectors reported that a staff member also “expressed concerns about their own safety at community venues”, as “access to learning areas is open to the public without challenge”.

They found that while staff raised these “significant concerns” before the start of term, managers had “failed to resolve them”.

The report added that “In practical workshops, poor practice and safety concerns identified before the beginning of term remain unresolved”.

While City College Nottingham was rated ‘inadequate’ for leadership and management and overall, Ofsted judged that it ‘requires improvement’ in all other assessed themes.

The private provider operates from sites across Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, Burton-on-Trent and Stokeon-Trent.

Courses on offer include English for speakers of other languages, English, mathematics, fashion and textiles, construction trades, health and social care, and beauty therapy.

Twelve days after the inspection, which ended on November 8, 2019, City College Nottingham advertised on Twitter that all their places were “now full for the academic year 2019/20”.

Nottingham College previously told FE Week it took quick and decisive action after being made aware of the safeguarding situation, including having “immediately” provided reception and security staff at City College Nottingham’s Carlton Road campus to “ensure secure access”.

The college is “strictly enforcing the use of lanyards for staff and students in order to ensure only people with a legitimate reason to be in the building are in the building”.

It has also “suspended IT access to control safeguarding risk online until such time as adequate software monitoring can be introduced”.

City College Nottingham last year had a subcontract with Burton and South Derbyshire College worth £220,000. The college said this ended in 2018/19 and it had not entered into any new contracts in 2019/20.

The private provider’s direct ESFA contracts for 2019/20 totalled £1.3 million.

City College Nottingham declined to comment.