Leadership concerns drag down college Ofsted report to ‘inadequate’

A college has been hit with an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating in a report that raised grave questions about leadership and management, just a few weeks after its chair and vice-chair resigned without explanation.

FE Week reported on June 18 that Amersham and Wycombe College’s chair and vice-chair of governors, Jenese Joseph and Andrew Walker, had stepped down – but no explanation of their reasons for leaving was given.

Jenese Joseph
Jenese Joseph

Ofsted published its latest report on the college today — which returned an ‘inadequate’-overall result, down from the ‘requires improve’ grade it received in December 2014.

The latest report rated Amersham and Wycombe as ‘requires improvement’ for quality of teaching, learning and assessment; personal development behaviour and welfare; outcomes for learners; 16 to 19 study programmes; adult learning programmes; and apprenticeships.

But it was a grade four in effectiveness of leadership and management that dragged the result down to ‘inadequate’ overall.

The Ofsted report asserted that the college’s “governance is not fit for purpose”.

It said that in order to improve, it needs “a new governing body”, which can then “establish a stable senior leadership team that steers the college towards its next steps”.

It added “tensions between governors and college leaders” had “led to a long period of unstable leadership”.

In addition, leaders and managers were said to have been “slow to review the appropriateness of the curriculum for adult learners”, and Ofsted requested that the college “evaluate rigorously” the curriculum to “ensure provision meets local demand from employers and the community”.

On top of these failures, the college was said to be “in significant financial difficulties”, with frequent instances of “poor financial management and unwise spending of public funds”.

Ofsted recommended that Amersham and Wycombe improved the quality of teaching, learning and assessment by “ensuring all managers, staff and learners have consistently high expectations of learners’ attendance, punctuality and attitudes to learning”.

It also advised “reviewing quality assurance arrangements” so they are “less cumbersome and focused more on helping teachers to reflect on and improve their practice”.

The report proposed that teachers need to “use a variety of assessment techniques more purposefully” to ensure learners and apprentices “are clear about their current progress”.

In spite of this criticism, Amersham and Wycombe received a ‘good’ grade for its provision for learners with high needs.

Teachers and specialist staff were said to provide “very good personal support to learners, especially those at risk of not completing their courses and those with high needs”.

Other strengths were that the “current managers and staff have shown considerable resilience in the face of the turbulence that surrounds them”.

In sports, public services, and the creative industries there was also said to be “good practical skills development, high standards of work, and successful progression into higher education or employment”.

When invited to respond to the report, a college spokesperson said: “We have taken immediate action to appoint a new chair and vice chair of governors.

“We believe these appointments will be a positive step towards restoring the overall wellbeing and financial health of the college.

“We are working quickly towards solutions to answer the issues raised by Ofsted and our focus, as always, is on ensuring that we continue to provide education and training for current and future students.”

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