College hits back at Ofsted after grade 3

The inspectorate published the report despite an ongoing challenge

The inspectorate published the report despite an ongoing challenge

A college has slammed Ofsted for publishing an inspection report while leaders’ complaint against the grade is still pending.

Eastleigh College was downgraded from ‘good’ to ‘requires improvement’ last week, but the college has hit back saying it has “multiple areas of concern”.

After the inspection, which was conducted in October, the college followed the education watchdog’s complaints procedure but has found this to “not be fit for purpose”.

Last week the inspectorate published and took down two “incorrect” reports. The college said it continues to pursue “legitimate and evidence-based concerns about the inspection and post inspection process”.

Despite the live complaint, Ofsted published Eastleigh College’s report on January 25.

A spokesperson for the college, which teaches almost 4,500 students and apprentices, said: “Regrettably in publishing a college report with a known stage three internal review request pending, Ofsted have confirmed that introducing new recommendations, new evidence post inspection, and publishing two incorrect reports is ‘normal’.”

It comes just weeks after FE Week revealed Ofsted’s senior leaders had admitted their complaints policy “is not working” and is under review.

Several other FE providers have protested against the watchdog’s judgements and subsequent handling of their complaints in recent months.

Eastleigh College’s spokesperson said: “The college has experienced similar (if not enhanced) shortcomings to those reported across the sector, and has also experienced the shortcomings (again if not enhanced) to those admitted to by Ofsted as recently stated in sector press.”

The grade three comes as Eastleigh College prepares to step in to help bolster struggling City College Southampton through a merger. The merger, planned to take effect from August 2023, will also include Fareham College, which currently holds a grade one from Ofsted.

Ofsted said it “swiftly corrected” and apologised to Eastleigh College for the two incorrectly published reports. A spokesperson added that the latest published report “contained no new evidence or recommendations”.

Eastleigh College’s report included six ‘good’ judgements, including for quality of education, but its overall grade was dragged down by ‘requires improvement’ judgements in leadership and management and apprenticeships.

Since the college’s last ‘good’ Ofsted judgement in 2019, leaders have embarked on a remodelling exercise to significantly reduce subcontracted provision to comply with Department for Education’s reforms.

The college was working with 34 subcontractors in 2018/19 but now only works with six.

A spokesperson for the college said leaders presented a “unique ‘big picture’ for the inspection team” in light of the move from subcontracted to direct delivery of apprenticeships post-pandemic.

But Ofsted’s report criticised the college’s teachers for “not ensuring apprentices gain the skills quickly enough to achieve the apprenticeship within the expected time period”.

Inspectors also claimed that managers and teachers “do not ensure all employers are routinely involved in apprentices’ progress reviews”, that apprentices are “not always aware of the progress they are making”, and “not all apprentices have the support they require to make expected and sustained progress”.

The only other criticism in the report was leaders’ and managers’ oversight of the whereabouts and well-being of children looked after and care leavers, which Ofsted claimed was “limited at the time of the inspection”.

The rest of Eastleigh College’s report was wholly positive.

Inspectors found that school leaver learners on full-time programmes benefit from well-planned opportunities with employers.

They also confirmed that learners and apprentices benefit from a professional learning environment, and that learners and apprentices feel safe at college, and in the workplace.

The report also said refugees from Afghanistan and the Ukraine were able to access the services and support they need through the additional courses offered by the college.

Meanwhile, leaders and managers were praised for having a clear and carefully considered strategy for the college’s curriculum offer.

Inspectors said the college makes a “reasonable contribution” to meeting skills needs as leaders, managers and governors “know their region extremely well”.

Commenting on Ofsted’s criticism of apprenticeships, Eastleigh College’s spokesperson said: “Whilst there is still more to be done the recruitment of subject specialist trainers with significantly reduced caseloads, working alongside high-quality teachers was seen to be working well in many areas. This investment and commitment to apprenticeship excellence will continue at pace.”

The spokesperson added: “The college is proud of every colleague who delivers opportunity and excellence on a daily basis. Commitment to our 2020-24 ‘more learners, more successful, more often’ strategy will continue unabated.”

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