Birmingham Metropolitan College has received a fourth ‘requires improvement’ Ofsted rating in a row.
In a report published yesterday, inspectors praised BMet for dealing with significant financial challenges, but issues with the consistency of a new curriculum were identified.
The last time the college received a ‘good’ rating was back in February 2011. The college has since received grade three reports in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
“Since the previous inspection, senior leaders and governors have changed the structure and focus of the college significantly,” Ofsted said.
“They have reduced the number of college sites and reformed the curriculum to meet the needs of learners, employers and stakeholders in Birmingham.
“Consequently, leaders and governors have now resolved the college’s long-term structural and financial issues.”
However, inspectors criticised leaders for failing to “ensure that the college’s curriculum is consistently good in all subjects and at all campuses”.
Inspectors called on governors to ensure that BMet’s leaders “identify the weaknesses” in all curriculum areas, including courses for adults and programmes for learners who have high needs.
They added that, while governors have the experience and skills to challenge leaders’ strategy and actions, the governors “accept” that recent structural and financial issues have drawn their focus from the quality of education and reduced their effectiveness in holding leaders to account.
The Ofsted report said the college required improvement in four out of eight assessment areas, including the quality of education, leadership and management, and provision for learners with high needs.
Adult learning programmes, judged ‘good’ in the college’s previous inspection, now also ‘require improvement’.
Programmes for young people however have improved to ‘good’.
The college had just over 8,700 learners at the time of the inspection, including 4,465 young people, 3,468 adults, 757 apprentices and 88 high-needs students.
BMet entered government intervention in 2015 after significant financial issues were identified. By the end of 2016/17 the college owed almost £14 million in exceptional financial support and racked up debts of £23.4 million.
In 2019 the college controversially closed its Stourbridge campus and then sold it in 2020 for £3.55 million – a figure that was £1.45 million lower than the makeover costs in 2015.
The college’s fortunes seemed to be looking up after it received a highly positive report from the FE Commissioner in 2020 which then skills minister Gillian Keegan said showed “remarkable improvements”.
Pat Carvalho took over as principal of BMet in June 2021. She told FE Week that the Ofsted report did applaud the “focussed work that has taken place over the last two years across BMet.
“[The report] acknowledges the clear improvements in the quality of curriculum – particularly in education programmes for young people,” Carvalho said.
“We were pleased that we were awarded ‘good’ for: behaviour and attitudes of students, personal development, education programmes for young people and for our good apprenticeships delivery.”
Carvalho drew attention to the fact the report said learners and apprentices develop the necessary work-related skills and experience for their future success in education, employment or training.
“There is, though, still work to do and we were disappointed, despite the clear improvements in the quality of curriculum, that the college received an overall ‘requires improvement’ grading,” Carvalho said.
“We will continue to strive to improve and to ensure that our students have a quality experience at BMet and are able to flourish.”