Ofsted watch: Grade 3 confirmed for London's mega-college

One of the largest college group’s in England had its grade three from Ofsted confirmed, in what was otherwise a varied week for further education.

The result was for Capital City College Group’s first inspection since being formed from a merger of City and Islington College, Westminster Kingsway College, and The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London – which were all previously rated ‘good’ – in 2017.

Inspectors found the merger had brought about a “degree of instability” in the leadership team, most notably at its Islington campus and in its management of apprentices.

Chief executive Roy O’Shaughnessy told FE Week in December he was trying to “dim the expectations” by self-grading as ‘requires improvement’ after the provider was surprised by a £10 million deficit in 2018/19.

But the watchdog did find “staff and governors have worked hard to manage the merger” and have established a “successful vision for the college”.

Learners, of which there are 25,000, “value their time at college, where staff encourage learners to widen their expectations and aspirations,” inspectors added.

Blackburn College, after receiving two ‘requires improvement’ grades in two years, was found to have made ‘reasonable progress’ in two areas of a monitoring visit.

New principal, Fazal Dad, has implemented “an effective programme of cultural change” with “an ethos of continuous improvement” now pervading the college, so a decline in the quality of education has been halted.

Haringey Sixth Form College was handed a grade three this week, dropping from a grade two. But inspectors found leaders “have been successful in re-establishing the college’s purpose and instilling enthusiasm in staff and students” after reconsidering the curriculum offer to ensure it meets young peoples’ needs.

Another grade three sixth form, Itchen College, had a better week after it was found to be making ‘significant progress’ in every area in a follow-up monitoring visit.

This is because leaders and managers have “continued to embed a culture of high expectations for staff and students” by ushering in changes to the management of the curriculum which have led to improvements in teaching practice and an uplift in students’ achievement.

Winstanley College was commended by Ofsted, as although it has dropped from a grade one awarded in 2007 to a two, it has “created a culture of high expectations” through the introduction of three non-negotiables for its 1,699 students: attendance, being on time to lessons and being ready to learn.

The Sixth Form College, Solihull bounced from a grade three to a two this week, with the report noting how the majority of the 1,958 students move into higher education and the college works with stakeholders, including universities, to provide learners with the opportunities to follow in-demand careers.

Brighton and Hove City Council achieved its fourth ‘good’ grade in a row for its adult and community learning provision, which is run by two subcontractors and two partner organisations.

An “ambitious curriculum” helps learners overcome barriers like low income, unemployment and mental illness.

Bristol City Council received the same result, and staff actively promote community cohesion by providing learners with volunteering opportunities at large events like a carnival.

Independent provider Skegness College of Vocational Training Limited has maintained its grade two. Inspectors reported most of the 96 learners gain the qualifications and develop the skills they need to find and sustain employment.

RHG Consult also fared well, making ‘significant progress’ in two areas of its early monitoring visit.

The 168 apprentices can “clearly explain” how their programme meets their career aspirations and know they lack the breadth of understanding to move on to the next management tier.

ECM Southwest was found to have made ‘insufficient progress’ in all three areas of an early monitoring visit. Leaders cannot confirm the eight apprentices have received their full entitlement to off-the-job training as they have not developed effective processes to track it.

As for safeguarding, not all of ECM’s staff have undergone a disclosure and barring service check and leaders do not understand the requirement for apprentices and staff to receive ‘Prevent’ training.

Associated Neighbour Training Limited, Cambridge Marketing College, Code Nation Limited, Geason Apprenticeships Limited, Institution of Railway Operators Limited, The Association of Health Professions in Ophthalmology and Universal Skills Centre Ltd all made ‘reasonable progress’ in every area of an early monitoring visit.

Independent Learning Providers Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Associated Neighbour Training Limited 19/02/20 02/03/20 M N/A
Cambridge Marketing College 6/2/20 05/03/20 M N/A
Code Nation Limited 5/2/20 02/03/20 M N/A
ECM Southwest Limited 5/2/20 02/03/20 M N/A
Geason Apprenticeships Limited 12/2/20 02/03/20 M N/A
Institution of Railway Operators Limited 19/01/20 04/03/20 M N/A
RHG Consult 14/02/20 05/03/20 M N/A
Skegness College of Vocational Training Limited 11/2/20 02/03/20 2 2
The Association of Health Professions in Ophthalmology 19/2/20 4/3/20 M N/A
Universal Skills Centre Ltd 12/2/20 02/03/20 M N/A

GFE colleges Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Blackburn College 23/01/20 02/03/20 M 3
Capital City College Group 24/01/20 03/03/20 3 N/A

Sixth form colleges (incl. 16-19 academies) Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Haringey Sixth Form College 30/01/20 05/03/20 3 2
Itchen College 12/02/20 04/03/20 M 3
The Sixth Form College, Solihull 11/2/20 04/03/20 2 M
Winstanley College 03/02/20 04/03/20 2 1

Adult community learning Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Brighton & Hove City Council 12/02/20 02/03/20 2 2
Bristol City Council 12/02/20 02/03/20 2 2