Leadership praised as college’s Oftsed rating improves following double inadequate blow

Lewisham Southwark College has seen its Ofsted rating go up a grade from its previous inadequate rating, with inspectors praising the “highly capable” new leadership team for turning around its fortunes.

The education watchdog’s overall verdict of ‘requires improvement’ comes after the college had the dubious honour of being the first FE and skills provider to be rated ‘inadequate’ twice in a row.

Today’s report rates the college as ‘good’ for its provision for learners with high needs, and ‘requires improvement’ in a further seven headline fields.

Principal Carole Kitching – who took over in July last year, four months after the college’s previous inspection – said she was “absolutely delighted” by the verdict.

She continued: “I would like to thank all staff who have worked so hard to help turn the college around.”

“Everyone is determined that we will continue to work hard to make further improvements for our students and our communities.”

Inspectors singled out the “positive impact” of college leaders “on raising the standards of teaching and the expectations teachers have of their learners” as one of the college’s key strengths – but warned that there was still a long way to go.

The 6,500-learner Lewisham Southwark College received its first inadequate rating following a visit by inspectors in November 2013.

Its second inadequate came after an inspection in February last year.

Since then college has had three monitoring visits by Ofsted – the most recent of which, in January, identified reasonable progress in all areas assessed.

Today’s report found that the “highly capable” senior leadership team had “secured the college’s capacity to improve further”.

It continued: “They have improved the quality of provision, outcomes for learners and the college’s financial health, but, as leaders readily understand, and as confirmed by inspectors, they still have much to do to achieve their objective of providing outstanding education and training for learners.”

The “personal support for learners who need help to overcome personal and social barriers to learning” was also found to be one of the college’s key strengths.

“Highly skilled” teachers have “high expectations” of learners with high needs and “place a very strong emphasis on students becoming as independent as they are able”, the report found.

Inspectors found that managers had “responded well” to the challenge of improving standards in teaching, learning and assessment, and that teaching staff were willing to “embrace change” and had “commitment and enthusiasm for improvement”.

As a result, “fewer students endure low-quality teaching, learning and assessment” and the “teaching of English and mathematics has improved”.

But inspectors also found that “too few students and apprentices achieve their qualifications”, and “not enough” learners progress on to higher level courses.

It said: “Outcomes for learners and teaching, learning and assessment are not yet good and key aspects for the improvement of teaching and learning identified at the previous inspection, such as suitable challenge in lessons for all learners, continue to require attention.”

Teaching, learning and assessment – particularly in English and maths – are among the key areas highlighted by inspectors as needing further improvement.

The college’s chair of governors Chris Bilsland OBE said: “Governors are proud of the significant progress the college has made over the last year.

“Further education really does change lives and we want to be sure that the college in Lewisham and Southwark is offering the very best training and teaching to residents.”

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  1. Well done to Carole and the team. There was always a good college in there still, with the post-merger quality issues being quite common in the sector, but it needed digging out from the financial mess at the same time – which is a tall order in any college. It’s great that the progress made has now been externally acknowledged.