Ofsted Watch: Delight for colleges but despair for community learning provider

Two colleges rejoiced this week as they stepped up to grade two, but there was no cause for celebration at an adult and community learning provider rated ‘inadequate’.

As reported by FE Week on Wednesday, Chelmsford College and Craven College rose to from grade three to two.

It means just under three quarters of colleges are now rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, the standard considered to be acceptable by the inspectorate.

But Learning Matters, a small provider based in Ipswich with just over 60 learners mostly on English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) study programmes, dropped from a grade three to a four.

Inspectors said since the previous inspection, action taken by senior leaders to improve the quality of provision has had “insufficient impact” and led to a “decline”.

“Too few learners complete their courses and achieve their qualifications, and too many do not make the progress of which they are capable,” Ofsted noted.

“Too few learners develop the English and maths skills that they need to achieve their goals.”

Worryingly, inspectors found that staff do not provide learners with “advice and guidance” that ensures they are on the right course.

Managers’ actions to improve attendance of learners have not “had the desired impact” and too many students “do not attend regularly”.

The reason for the poor performance was put down to Learning Matters experiencing “significant changes” and a high turnover of staff since the previous inspection.

“This, and the sickness absence of key staff, has led to reduced management capacity over the last 12 months,” Ofsted said.

Back onto the good news, Craven College, which taught just over 6,000 learners last year, was highlighted for its “unrelenting” drive of leadership.

“Leaders have made good progress in realising their vision to provide high-quality education and training for students and apprentices,” its report said.

“Since the previous inspection, leaders and managers have focused unrelentingly on tackling weaknesses. They have put in place a wide range of largely successful strategies and actions for improvement.”

The report on Chelmsford College, which taught around 3,200 learners last year, was full of praise for the “high expectations” of governors and senior leaders.

It said that they “communicate well an effective learning strategy to improve the quality of provision and outcomes for learners”.

Grades three and four are considered unacceptable by Ofsted, so the news that these colleges have managed the climb will be a significant morale boost for their peers.

It also means that 74 per cent of colleges now hold the top two grades – up from 69 per cent in August.

Meanwhile, Redcar and Cleveland College had its first monitoring visit report published following its ‘inadequate’ rating in November.

It said governors and leaders “recognised as imperative” the need to take “urgent action to improve the culture within the college and the morale of staff”.

Ofsted said they maintain a “clear commitment” to improving these, through their plans for improving the quality of provision and establishing the long-term sustainability.

There was only one other FE report published this week, and it was a short inspection for employer provider HSBC Bank PLC, which maintained its grade two.


GFE CollegesInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
Chelmsford College12/12/201707/02/201823
Redcar & Cleveland College10/01/201807/02/2018MM
Craven College16/01/201807/02/201823


Adult and Community LearningInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
Volunteering Matters22/11/201706/02/201843


Short inspections (remains grade 2)InspectedPublished
HSBC Bank PLC09/01/201808/02/2018


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