NewVIc becomes only ‘inadequate’ sixth form college

The London college is now seeking a merger rescue following toxic staff and leadership battle

The London college is now seeking a merger rescue following toxic staff and leadership battle

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A troubled London sixth form college is pursuing a merger after a damning ‘inadequate’ Ofsted verdict.

Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc) yesterday became the only sixth form college in the country to hold the watchdog’s lowest possible judgment and was put into formal intervention by the government. It is now in talks to dissolve and transfer its staff, assets and liabilities to Newham College.

The proposal follows a tumultuous period which disrupted students’ experience and led to many leaving without a qualification last year.

Staff previously told FE Week they planned to strike for 30 days in 2023 during the busy exam period amid a toxic battle with leaders over staff cuts and high workloads.

Ofsted reported that NewVIc’s 2,400 learners were “keen to study, but for too many, their time at the college does not match their expectations”.

Students “experience disruption to their education due to staffing issues, ineffective teaching and administrative errors regarding their examinations”, inspectors said. In the previous academic year, this “led to a significant proportion of learners not achieving their qualifications and making poor progress relative to their prior knowledge and attainment”.

Learners’ attendance and punctuality are also “not good enough”, too few participate in good work experience or work-related learning activities, and “until recently, leaders and managers have not been considerate enough of staff workload and well-being”.

The college was also criticised for making a “limited” contribution to skills needs, with governors singled out for lacking a “good enough understanding of the skills agenda”.

NewVIc has been run by interim principal Susanne Davies since October after former boss Mandeep Gill went on sick leave. His employment officially ended earlier this month. The sixth form also has an interim chair after the leader of the governing body, Martin Rosner, stepped down in March.

Various other senior leaders also currently hold interim posts.

The college told FE Week it is now exploring a merger with neighbouring Newham College, rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, as it has “demonstrable strengths in the areas Ofsted identified as areas for development at NewVIc”.

If it gets the go ahead, the merger would be a “type B”, meaning NewVIc would be dissolved and its staff, assets and liabilities transferred to Newham College. Leaders are aiming for a merger by the end of the calendar year.

Jayne Dickinson, interim chair of NewVIc, said: “Over the past two months I’ve witnessed the enormous potential of NewVIc and the real progress the college is already making in the areas for improvement highlighted in the Ofsted report.

“A merger between the two organisations [Newham College] will accelerate this progress and expand opportunities for local young people, ensuring a skills pipeline for our employers. This is an exciting prospect that plays to the strengths of both colleges.”

Ofsted said until recently, governors and senior leaders at NewVIc have “not done enough to tackle the poor quality of education that learners experience”.

They presided over a “decline in standards resulting in the proportion of learners who achieve their qualifications being low on too many courses”.

Inspectors said leaders had “poor oversight” of key functions, such as the administration of examinations, for which they “failed to put in place effective or rapid enough improvements”.

Leaders have also “not made sure that there are adequate learning resources, such as computers, to meet the needs of learners”.

Inspectors found that a “characteristic” of the quality of learners’ experiences is the “wide variability across different subjects, depending on the skill and expertise of teachers and the level of disruption due to staff shortages or changes”.

However, Ofsted said the current senior leaders have “accurately identified the urgent areas for improvement” and have an “extensive range of suitable plans to improve the quality of education for learners”.

The watchdog also recognised that learners at NewVIc are respectful of each other and the wider college community. The “strong visibility” of staff around the campus, particularly the security and youth workers, creates a “calm and positive environment where learners feel safe and supported”.

Learners are also “very aware about how to manage their mental health and where to get support”.

Furthermore, inspectors found good delivery of provision for NewVIc’s 90 learners with special educational needs and disabilities.

Interim principal Davies said: “I am pleased that Ofsted acknowledge the progress made in the current academic year to get the college back on track. We fully recognise the challenges we face and have a clear plan for the road ahead.”

Paul Jackson, chair of Newham College, added that he was “pleased to be working with” NewVIc towards creating an “exciting option for post-16 education in Newham”.

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4 Comments

  1. Phillip Hatton

    I hope that there are no liabilities that will be transferred that will impact on Newham College. Sad to see the change in circumstances to a once excellent and well-managed college.