Ofsted finds safety concerns at SEND charity

'Improvements are under way, leaders promise

'Improvements are under way, leaders promise

A charity that teaches FE courses to learners with special educational needs has promised “improvements are under way” after Ofsted reported a number of site security concerns.   

My Life set up a post-16 specialist college three years ago at the request of Wigan Council and received a new provider monitoring visit from the inspectorate in July.   

The resulting report was published last Friday and showed ‘insufficient progress’ judgments across the board – the lowest rating possible.   

Inspectors pulled leaders up for a badly designed curriculum and criticised “poorly performing” tutors.   

But of most concern was My Life’s safeguarding arrangements.   

Learners are aged 16 to 25, with moderate to severe learning difficulties, autism, speech, language and communication needs, and emotional difficulties. Students, of whom there were 20 at the time of Ofsted’s visit, have access to a ten-acre site and farm that supports their learning.   

Inspectors reported that while learners “say they feel safe”, public footpaths run adjacent to the site and current fences “would not prevent a learner from leaving the site, or unauthorised visitors gaining access”.   

Additionally, chalets that are sometimes used for crisis accommodation for external service users are on the same site, as is an equestrian centre, veterinary practice and café. These facilities are “open to the general public with no secure demarcation between them and the provider”, the report said.     

Ofsted noted that leaders and governors introduced some measures to protect learners, such as security gates at the front entrance and closed-circuit television cameras across the site. Leaders also showed inspectors their plans to further improve site security but had not yet started to implement them.   

Every possible measure is being taken to ensure the safety of everyone

A spokesperson for My Life said this week the provider has “begun work to implement a detailed and peer-reviewed improvement plan” to address the concerns.   

They said: “It is vital that everyone is safe when they come to My Life Learning. While Ofsted’s safeguarding recommendations are largely based on securing areas of the My Life site – where there could be a potential and general concern in the future, rather than as a response to a specific event or issue – every possible measure is being taken to ensure the safety of everyone.   

“My Life as an organisation has since strengthened further its safeguarding team and governance.”   

The spokesperson added that a new curriculum is being introduced this term, as is a more robust system of self-assessment, targets and actions for improvement. There will also be additions to the governance of My Life Learning to bring FE specialisms to the team.   

When specialist post-16 institutions are issued with a poor Ofsted report, the Department for Education takes a “discretionary approach to determining the appropriate action” which could include “action to suspend or limit new learner places where deemed appropriate”, according to DfE rules.   

As well as considering Ofsted’s findings and other information the department has about the performance of the provider, officials also take into account the views of the local authorities that are the commissioners and joint funders of specialist post-16 institutions.   

My Life Learning has had no sanctions imposed on it by the DfE.   

My Life executive Caroline Tomlinson said her charity has “given people and families hope for the future” after setting up My Life Learning. “The recommendations that Ofsted have made are all sensible and achievable and with the full support of our parents and carers, our improvement plan is already under way,” she added.   

“We look forward to welcoming Ofsted back for the full inspection in the new year.” 

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