Shrewsbury college loses grade 4 battle with Ofsted

A college accused of serious safeguarding failures has failed to overturn an ‘inadequate’ judgment following a second visit from Ofsted inspectors.

FE Week understands that Shrewsbury Colleges Group will have a grade four report published imminently after its complaint to the education watchdog was not upheld.

Leaders at the college, which teaches more than 9,000 students mostly aged 16 to 18, previously alleged the education watchdog ran out of time to check evidence in its first inspection in November.

Inspectors revisited last week but found that the same safeguarding concerns persist.

Following the first visit, principal James Staniforth said he had “never experienced anything like this” after 27 years in education.

The college told FE Week the first judgment was “wrong”, denied safeguarding was “ineffective” and claimed that Ofsted’s decision was “changed on the final day of the inspection without adequate explanation”.

Shrewsbury Colleges Group declined to comment following the latest visit from Ofsted.

FE Week understands representatives from the National Education Union have also raised concerns over safeguarding procedures across the group, both before and after the visit from the inspectorate.

The college group did previously admit that West Mercia Police were called to an incident during the inspection, after a suspended student tried to regain entry to college, and that some fire call-points were disabled during the inspection “in order to stop further false alarms” after a fault and a student caused two separate false alarms.

Ofsted was originally set to report that students and staff do not feel safe and the college had not taken sufficient steps to help ensure their safety

Inspectors also allegedly found that staff required to carry out site security roles have not received adequate training and necessary risk assessments to ensure effective safeguarding covering the college estate were not in place.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency previously asked the college to appoint an independent review of safeguarding by an approved consultant following a referral from Ofsted.

A two-day audit took place at the end of January, and it concluded that there was “a strong culture of safeguarding evident which is underpinned by established policies and procedures”.

“There is substantial evidence to support this statement as detailed in the report,” the summary continued.

Last month, Staniforth maintained the college was “a safe place to study” and it was “confident” the evidence available would demonstrate the effectiveness of our safeguarding practices”.

The principal added the college was looking forward to Ofsted returning and would await their judgment.

Shrewsbury Sixth Form College and Shrewsbury College of Arts and Technology merged to become Shrewsbury Colleges Group in August 2016.

Both FE providers were rated ‘good’ in their final inspections before the merger.

The group is now based across three campuses and has a turnover of £23 million.

It advertises itself as Shropshire’s largest provider of post-16 education – which teaches 70 per cent of all 16-to-18 students in the county.