Ofsted publishes contested Shrewsbury College grade 4

Ofsted this morning published their contested grade four report into Shrewsbury Colleges Group, expressing concerns that “not all students feel safe”.

The college will be “appealing against the safeguarding grade” and appear to be accusing the Ofsted national team of “overruling” their regional colleagues. See their full statement below.

Shortly before 9am the report was removed from the inspectorate’s website but it has since been published, here.

While ‘behaviours and attitudes’ and ‘leadership and management’ have led to an overall ‘inadequate’ judgement, the rest of Shrewsbury’s provision has been rated as ‘good’.

Inspectors first identified safeguarding concerns during a visit to the college in November, but following a complaint they declared the inspection “incomplete“.

Ofsted revisited Shrewsbury last week, but found that the same safety concerns persist.

Today’s report said a “small number of vulnerable students described not feeling safe and feeling intimidated around the college”.

And “some staff” reported that they “did not feel equipped to deal with challenges they may face when interacting with students and learners”.

The college’s response in full:

“Shrewsbury Colleges Group has today 16 March 2020 responded to the publication of a report of its recent Ofsted inspection.

Principal James Staniforth said: “We are bitterly disappointed and extremely surprised that Ofsted have concluded that safeguarding processes at the college are not effective despite the wealth of evidence to the contrary.

“We particularly cannot understand how Ofsted can disregard the judgement of the police when it comes to the safety of the college and the effectiveness of our practices.

“Furthermore, the safeguarding grade makes little sense in the context of:

  1. The broader report, in which Ofsted rate all other provision as Good
  2. Recent expert opinion. Since Ofsted’s visit:
  • An independent review of safeguarding at the college, undertaken at the request of the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), concluded that ‘campuses are safe places to learn, work and to visit’, ‘there is a strong culture of safeguarding’, ‘every effort has been made to ensure safe sites and safe students and staff’ and the college is ‘one of the safest in country’.
  • West Mercia Police have confirmed that they have ‘no concerns’ regarding any of the college’s three campuses and that the college works ‘in close partnership’ with West Mercia Police ‘to safeguard young people who may be vulnerable to being exploited’
  • The Shropshire Safeguarding Partnership have said that they ‘felt assured of the effectiveness of their safeguarding arrangements’ at the college.
  • An Education and Skills Funding Agency audit of college safeguarding training for all staff concluded that they were ‘completely assured’ by the work of the college.

“We seek to continually improve our processes and our excellent staff work very hard to ensure students are kept safe. The college has taken this area of its responsibilities very seriously indeed and we do not understand why evidence has not impacted on the judgement.

regional office had to be overruled by the national office

“We have strategic, clear and consistent expectations and procedures to mitigate and reduce risks in relation to campus sites and the potential for students to be exploited. The vast majority of our students and staff feel safe. Health and safety practices are consistent, and we provide a significant programme of training to help students keep themselves safe online and in their local communities.

“We will be appealing against the safeguarding grade of the report on the grounds that Ofsted’s processes in relation to this particular inspection were gravely flawed and unlike any that we have faced as an experienced senior team.

“During the inspection process, important decisions relating to the evidence to be considered, findings and publication made by the regional office had to be overruled by the national office. The inspection was reopened on the grounds that the findings of the original inspection lacked credibility and reliability.  When the inspection team returned, it became very clear that a pre-conceived result was required and evidence to the contrary was to be ignored.

 “Moreover, the report appears to have significant and worrying implications for the broader further education sector.

“The safeguarding grade is informed by ‘a small number of students not feeling safe’ and ‘some staff’ reporting that they do not feel equipped to deal with challenges. This raises serious questions as to whether Ofsted requires 100% of students and staff to feel safe and confident respectively – a completely unrealistic expectation.

“The report raises the issue of ‘access to campus sites’ and ‘potential’ threats to students, not actual threats, the inference being that colleges like ours need to put up fences around all our sites. This in turn has major implications for FE estate management.”