The staff of a land-based college received an early Christmas present this week after bouncing from double Ofsted ‘inadequate’ results to ‘good’.
Moulton College has announced plans to restart apprenticeships and aims to score an ‘outstanding’ rating at its next inspection after receiving the grade two on Monday.
The Northamptonshire college, which was ‘outstanding’ in 2008, was slapped with a grade four in 2018 and again in 2019.
It was also placed into financial intervention following a report by then-FE Commissioner Richard Atkins in April 2018.
Corrie Harris, Moulton’s principal, credited this week’s result to her “amazing team”: “They have massively pulled together, and they’ve got a huge can-do attitude.”
The current FE Commissioner, Shelagh Legrave, commended the college on Twitter, posting: “Many congratulations to Moulton College on achieving good from Ofsted. A great achievement which Corrie Harris, governors and staff should be rightly proud of.”
The grade four reports, which included findings such as Moulton’s equine studies and sport teachers paying “insufficient attention to health and safety practice”, were “horrible” for staff, Harris said.
“I can’t begin to tell you how difficult it is. They feel like it’s a slur and that they’re not good enough.”
When she announced the grade two to about 200 staff, she saw “grown men crying because it’s not just a relief, they get their pride back”.
Some staff had been at the college for 20 years and always knew ”that with the right leadership and support” they could get back to results like the 2008 ‘outstanding’ rating, she said.
College strove to improve CPD and curriculum structure
Harris says the improvement on the grade four began before she joined in July 2019.
She credited it to having the right culture, introduced through new procedures and much wider use of staff training.
The latest report notes how leaders “have developed suitable plans to help staff improve their teaching skills”, including training for new lecturers and opportunities for professional development.
Harris put this down to having “great coaches, a great director of teaching and learning, and a great quality director all led by the vice principal”.
As well as doing “lots” of internal CPD, the college brought in a former Ofsted inspector to train staff.
Teacher turnover has gone from 50 per cent when Harris started to just 9 per cent.
The college has also restructured its curriculum, which inspectors said contributed to an improvement in the quality of education.
Staff also now use labour market intelligence and a vector tool, which plots where all students are going to identify gaps in the labour market.
Harris said the process is so good, “we’ve now shared it with other colleges”.
However, Ofsted days attendance still needs to improve, “Leaders and managers have not yet ensured that all learners attend their classes at consistently high rates.”
Harris hit back at what she thought was the watchdog “clutching at straws a little bit”, as attendance was at 90 per cent.
‘Foot firmly on the pedal’ towards Ofsted grade one
Inspectors told her that with “a couple of little tweaks” the college would have been given an ‘outstanding’ for the leadership and management theme.
Asked whether aiming for grade one at its next inspection was realistic, when others had
lost that grade under the new inspection framework, Harris called it a matter of “foot firmly on the pedal”.
The grade four meant the college had to stop providing apprenticeships, which she said was a “bugbear” as there were “pockets” of “fantastic” provision in areas such as civil engineering.
But with a grade two, Moulton is looking to restart apprenticeships in construction – “because there’s a huge need” – and land-based sectors – “because nobody else can do them” in the county.
Harris expects her college to come out of intervention this year and for it to generate a small financial surplus in 2021-22, after a £6.5 million deficit in 2019-20.
Shrewsbury Colleges Group is currently the only grade four college in England.