Young adults at a SEND college were taught personal and intimate care in mixed-gender groups and took part in “highly inappropriate” activities, an Ofsted inspection has found.
The watchdog also found the students with special educational needs and disabilities were tube fed and medicated in classrooms in front of their peers and staff.
Ofsted published a damning ‘inadequate’ report of the Michael Tippett College, an independent specialist college in Balham, south London, this week. Inspectors uncovered serious failures in safeguarding.
These included leaders not developing policies for how staff should manage any potential incidents of harmful sexual behaviour. Learners were also left at risk of “significant harm for longer periods than necessary”.
A council is now reviewing any placements it has with the college in light of the findings. Concerns were first raised at a monitoring visit last year.
The college has told FE Week that there are no plans for its closure and said that they are making improvements under new leadership.
“The Michael Tippett College accepts the outcome of the Ofsted report. The inspection team were fair and took the time to explain their judgments,” acting head of the college, Perry Vlachos, told FE Week.
“The college has recently undergone a great deal of change this academic year, especially at the executive and senior management levels. The college recognises that significant improvements are needed.”
The Michael Tippett College caters for young adults aged 19 to 25 who have a range of profound multiple learning difficulties or severe learning difficulties – some with autism spectrum disorder. At the time of the inspection there were 41 learners.
Nearly all were on a three-year preparation for work and life programme. Ofsted found that learners did not benefit from an effective curriculum.
They said it was poorly planned, and learners weren’t provided opportunities to develop essential skills needed for adulthood based on what they can already do.
Leaders, trustees and staff were accused of not having sufficient expertise in special educational needs and/or disabilities to ensure that the curriculum was “appropriate and ambitious for learners with complex needs”.
Ofsted also found a wide range of safeguarding concerns – saying that learners were not always treated with “respect for their dignity”.
As an example, inspectors cited the fact that when supporting learners with tube feeding and medication, staff did so in the classroom in front of other learners and staff.
“Teachers teach sensitive topics such as personal and intimate care in mixed-gender groups, and activities are highly inappropriate,” the report added.
Staff and designated safeguarding leads did not follow their own safeguarding policy to make timely referrals to the adult services duty team when vulnerable learners are at risk.
“Consequently, learners remain at risk of significant harm for longer periods than are necessary,” inspectors said.
Safety concerns were previously raised in a monitoring visit that was carried out in November last year, where inspectors found that senior leaders and trustees did not have effective safeguarding arrangements in place.
Ofsted inspectors did note that the new acting head of college and trustees have begun to improve on some of the “significant weaknesses” identified at the previous safeguarding monitoring visit.
“As a result, leaders have ensured that appropriate checks are now in place for current staff to ensure that they are safe to work with the college’s learners,” inspectors said.
Vlachos told FE Week that under his interim management the college is working closely with stakeholders and have begun to “effectively address the issues” raised in the report.
“For example, regarding safeguarding, we have amended our policy to clarify processes and responsibilities and have completed a whole-staff ‘Prevent’ training.”
He claimed the college is not in danger of closing and is planning to make the necessary improvements to enhance the future of the college and our students’ outcomes.
But Lambeth Council, the college’s local authority, is reviewing its relationship with the college.
A spokesperson said: “The Michael Tippett College in Balham is an independently run specialist education centre located in Lambeth that sits outside local authority control.
“The Ofsted inspection includes concerning findings and we are reviewing any placements we have at the college.”