Criticism and restructures as Ofsted grades plummet

Three further education colleges have suffered setbacks after receiving the lowest possible inspection grades.

Reports by education regulator Ofsted, each published on March 30, show ‘inadequate’ reports for Macclesfield College and City of Wolverhampton College. The third to receive the grade, as previously revealed by FE Week, was Lambeth College, also formally published on March 30.

Back in June 2007, Macclesfield College was graded as ‘outstanding’, which made their most recent inspection report a shock for the principal designate Simon Andrews, who takes over at the college on August 1.

Mr Andrews said problems with the 14-19 diploma, which the college has “moved away” from doing, had affected their 16-18 provision, before hitting out at the focus the inspectors during their visit to the college.

He said: “We felt we were similar, but Ofsted came in with a focus which was almost exclusively on 16-18 provision, which is about a third of the college provision.”

He later added: “The report is full of contradictions. They’ve based judgement on a diploma we only ran for two years.”

Improvements at the college will now be formed in an action plan, compiled with the Skills Funding Agency, and a development plan with LSIS. The governing body has had a shake-up, with a new vice-chairman and the chairman will step down next year.

Ofsted will also revisit the college in six months for a monitoring report, before another inspection in 12 months.

Mr Andrews said: “They recognised in the last 16 to 20 months the college has made significant improvements. We are looking forward to Ofsted coming back and showing them that we are not inadequate.”

Meanwhile, Ian Millard, the principal at City of Wolverhampton College, has moved to reassure the college’s students following their ‘inadequate’ grade. Their latest grade is a reduction from a ‘good’ at their previous inspection in February 2008.

Mr Millard said: “I appreciate that students and their parents will, quite rightly, be concerned by the report. However, I would like to reassure them that we are already taking decisive action to address many of the issues raised and are confident we can overcome them.”

He added: “The success rates referred to in the report look at how many students successfully complete their course compared to how many were enrolled at the beginning.

“In these tough economic times we are finding that some of our learners are having to drop out due to financial reasons, which has an impact on our success rates.”

Mr Millard said they will introduce measures to encourage students to stay on, such as additional learning support and grants for those with financial pressures.

Lambeth College, meanwhile, has quashed local news reports that all teachers have been handed redundancy notices in the wake of their ‘inadequate’ report. The college is undertaking a management restructure, which would affect 43 members of staff and salary reductions to a further 24 workers.

If the proposals go through a consultation, staff who earn £41,000 or more will receive a pay cut up to six per cent, whereas staff on the lower end will receive a cut starting at 3.5 per cent. A statement from the college, released to FE Week, reads: “No redundancy notices have been handed to staff and the restructure is of management teams, not tutors.

“None of the colleges other 500 staff (including teachers and business support) are affected by these proposals.

“There is therefore no truth whatsoever that all college staff have been issued with redundancy notices and the college deeply regrets that such an alarming story has been published without the facts being checked directly with the college.

“The purpose of the restructure is to enable the college to focus closely on raising standards and performance within the college.”

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