‘It’s a comfort to be asked to stay on,’ says Coventry principal

The chair of City College Coventry’s board of governors has refused to sack his principal after a disastrous inspection result.

The college was branded inadequate — a grade four result — across each of the education watchdog’s headline fields.

The 8,000-learner college was also given grade fours throughout the main findings board, including apprenticeships and 19+ learning programmes.

It was the college’s third poor inspection result under the 16-year leadership of Paul Taylor

And the result has prompted  a number of comments on websites, including FE Week, questioning college leadership.

Jayne Stigger wrote on Twitter: “Investigation into how this has been allowed to continue needed? How many more?”

But Warwick Hall (pictured), chair of the governors at City College Coventry since 2001, said he wanted to turn the college around “rather than debate individuals”.

“The Ofsted report was extremely disappointing and it is important for our students, local businesses and the city that the provision of the college is radically improved,” he said.

“Rather than debating individuals, the energies of the leadership team and board of governors are focused on delivering a considerable step change that is focused on the achievement of our current students and the new intake in September.

“The college leadership team aims to achieve this through a thorough review of systems, processes and standards, and improving the performance of all staff.”

Coventry’s Ofsted report, published on April 23 following inspection in March, was critical of below average achievement, low course completion, poor attendance and punctuality.

Its highest mark was a single grade two for teaching, learning and assessment on independent living and life skills.

The report said: “Quality assurance systems are ineffective. They have failed to prevent the decline in success rates and have not brought about the necessary improvements across the college, particularly in teaching, learning and assessment.”

The energies of the leadership team and board of governors are focused on delivering a considerable step change that is focused on the achievement of our current students and the new intake in September”

It added: “Leadership and management throughout the college are not effective in bringing about sustained improvement in all areas.”

The college has automatically been issued with a notice of concern, which a Skills Funding Agency spokesperson said required it “to take swift, robust and effective action to remedy the inadequacies identified by Ofsted”.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said: “The government published the enhanced intervention approach in April’s Rigour and Responsiveness in Skills.

“This new process will be in place by August 2013 once the appointment of the new FE Commissioner is completed.

“Before these arrangements are in place the Skills Funding Agency is leading the intervention with City College Coventry and all options have been considered.”

Mr Taylor himself has responded on the FE Week website (right), where he said he expected the new FE Commissioner to step
in somehow. However, he has already said he wanted to stay in post to “put
things right”.

Mr Taylor has already said he was implementing changes to improve the college, which, according to agency figures, had a turnover of £19.8m last year.

One of Mr Taylor’s changes — a new system to monitor attendance and trigger action to deal with students who did not turn up — was not in place in time for the inspection, he said.

Staff training would also be assessed and addressed, “before the end of June with a view to a clean start in September”, he added.

“Generally, we need to tidy up on all our systems and become more consistent and focused.

“But we don’t just want to implement an action plan — we want to put in place a significant culture change.”

Comments and tweets

Paul Taylor on feweek.co.uk:

The article [in the last edition of FE Week] portrays me as being ‘defiant’.

I am not being stubborn in staying on, rather, the corporation decided to assume a corporate responsibility for the poor outcome and has taken the pragmatic view that things need sorting out very quickly and that in order to do this, I and the rest of executive should stay in place to develop and to have implemented an action plan by the beginning of July to set the place up for September.

This is what we are doing and we have made very good progress.

Indeed, some key issues were already being resolved prior to inspection in relation to personnel, structures and systems.

The governance and management team recognises the immediate challenges and is confident of significant improvement.

My future is not in my hands. We have the first formal post inspection action plan monitoring meeting scheduled with the agency in mid-May.

Otherwise, we expect intervention from the new commissioner with whatever consequences that might bring.

To repeat, I am not being stubborn or unrealistic about my future prospects of remaining principal.

I am doing what the corporation has asked. I am doing it and will continue to do so as professionally as I possibly can and for as long as I am required.

This will be of comfort to me when my career as principal is over.”

Paul Taylor, principal of City College Coventry

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