Inspectorate apologises to college principal after reversing grade four

Ofsted has apologised and overturned a provisional ‘inadequate’ judgement after a college complained when inspectors alleged that student safety was at risk.

Scarborough Sixth Form College was left concerned after a two-day visit in October.

Its provisional rating was a grade four, which FE Week understands related specifically to safeguarding.

Principal Phil Rumsey lodged a complaint before the report was due to be published, claiming that the lead inspector had not gathered “sufficient evidence” to make fair judgements.

Ofsted dispatched inspectors to visit the sixth form college – where education secretary Gavin Williamson studied for his A-levels – on December 6.

The resulting report showed ‘good’ ratings across the board, with the education watchdog apologising “for the inconvenience”.

Rumsey would not divulge what safeguarding allegations inspectors made, but told FE Week: “As our inspection was approaching the middle of the final day, it became clear that the lead HMI had not gathered sufficient evidence to make fair judgements in his specific areas.

“I requested an extension to the inspection and Ofsted agreed that the initial inspection was incomplete and sent two more inspectors to carry out the necessary further inspection.”

He added: “We are delighted that the inspection recognised that our ‘teachers are highly skilled’ and that ‘a high proportion of learners achieve high grades’.”

Scarborough’s published report also states that governors and leaders “successfully promote a culture of safeguarding”.

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: “This college was inspected in October 2019. The college submitted a complaint, which we investigated in line with our published procedures. We found the inspection was incomplete.

“A further visit took place in December 2019, when we gathered additional evidence to complete the inspection.

“The evidence supported a grade of ‘good’ for overall effectiveness. This is in line with our complaint handling policy. We have apologised to the principal for the inconvenience of the additional visit.”

It is the latest concern over Ofsted judgements for colleges.

Shrewsbury Colleges Group was given a provisional ‘inadequate’ rating following an inspection in November in which inspectors claimed to have found serious safeguarding concerns.

But Ofsted has now declared the inspection “incomplete” after the principal launched a formal complaint. Inspectors were due back into the college this week.

Scarborough Sixth Form College’s Ofsted visit came just days after it pulled out of offering two T-level pathways – in construction and digital – ahead of their launch set for September 2020.

Rumsey said in October that the decision was made because of a lack of work placement opportunities in the area and a shortage of good-quality teachers.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson came out shortly after and said he backed the college’s decision.

“They have to look as to how they deliver the very best quality and the very best choice, and they’ve had to make that decision and it is the right decision because it is about preserving that quality,” he said during an interview with FE Week.

“This doesn’t close the opportunity to offer it in a year after that, but it’s getting the whole package right, because every youngster that takes a T-level, we want to get it right first time.”

The college still plans to offer the education and child care pathway from September.