Ofsted Watch: Difficult week for FE as providers hit with low grades

FE has faced a difficult week in Ofsted inspections as three providers were hit with ‘inadequate’ ratings.

Three others were graded as ‘requires improvement’ in a week which saw 15 inspection reports published for FE and skills providers.

Norfolk’s Easton and Otley College was hit with its second grade four rating in a row in a report published on November 12, which raised concerns about poor quality study programmes and adult education courses and low completion rates on both.

More than a quarter of students on study programmes and adult learning programmes, which together make up a large majority of the college’s provision, do not achieve their qualifications,” the report said.

Two independent learning providers also received ‘inadequate’ grades this week. Inspectors found that the 500 learners at the Harrow-based Academy Training Group had received “no teaching” and some were “not aware” they had taken out an advanced learner loan.

The provider was said to have “no strengths” and accused of not using its funding “appropriately”, but Academy Training Group’s operations director Paul Marsh said the judgement was being challenged and that Ofsted “lacks understanding of the environment we work under”.

Also ‘inadequate’ was Manchester’s Impact College, where learners were found to copy and paste their assignments and had been given high grades even where awarding organisations identified malpractice.

A damning monitoring visit has also caused a headache for the government this week, after Premier People Solutions – an apprenticeship provider which trains civil servants in government departments including the Home Office and HMRC – was rated ‘insufficient’ across the board.

“Leaders and managers cannot be sure that their members of staff are safe to work in the sensitive environments of the employers for whom their apprentice work,” the report said.

David Pearson, managing director at Premier, insisted the provider takes safeguarding “extremely seriously” but the Education and Skills Funding Agency has now terminated its levy contract.

West Kent and Ashford College, Focus Training and Expanse Group all received grade three ratings from Ofsted this week.

Independent specialist college Expanse Group was criticised for its ‘inadequate’ apprenticeship provision, including “weak” management and insufficient time for off-the-job training.

However, inspectors said its provision for learners with high needs was “good” and staff had created an “inclusive culture of mutual respect in which learners feel safe”.

Bolton’s Focus Training was criticised for having too many learners leave their course early and too few achieve their qualifications.

Focus Training’s courses consist of distance learning via an online learning platform and planned telephone support tuition sessions. However, inspectors said leaders had not “been swift enough to improve the quality of the telephone support tutorials” and said tutors “do not provide effective telephone support”.

But inspectors commended the “very high-quality teaching resources” and “good quality face-to-face training sessions” and said learners who remain on their course enjoy their learning.

Ofsted warned that too many learners at grade three West Kent and Ashford College do not achieve qualifications or make the progress of expected them, and said too few assessors plan apprentices’ on- and off-the-job training in consultation with employers.

But it commended leaders for having “changed the culture of the college” and improving teaching, behaviour and the effectiveness of management, as well as re-establishing “positive relationships with external stakeholders”.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom this week. Havering Sixth Form College improved from a grade three to a grade two, while Ada National College for Digital Skills became the first national college to receive an Ofsted inspection and obtained a ‘good’ rating.

Leaders at Havering Sixth Form College were described as “ambitious” and commended for establishing a “strong culture of improvement at the college”. A large number of learners make good progress, and leaders “established excellent partnerships with the local community”.

And Ada was highly praised for effective teaching, “enthusiastic” learners, “excellent” careers advice and focus on increasing diversity within the digital sector.

Inspectors praised senior leaders for being “relentless in their ambitions to establish the National College for Digital Skills as a sector leader in its field”.

Cambridge employer provider Marshall of Cambridge Aerospace also enjoyed a positive week, after being rated as making ‘significant progress’ in every category in an early monitoring visit report.

Leaders were commended having “invested well in staff and training resources” and ensuring they celebrate the success of apprentices, who were described as developing “very high level new skills, knowledge and behaviours”.

CMS Vocational Training, N-Gaged Training and Recruitment, Manufacturing Excellence, First Intuition Chelmsford and FLM Training were all found to be making ‘reasonable progress’ in monitoring visits.

GFE CollegesInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
Easton and Otley College02/10/201812/11/201844
Ada National College for Digital Skills 09/10/201815/11/20182N/A
West Kent and Ashford College02/10/201815/11/201833


Sixth Form CollegesInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
Havering Sixth Form College09/10/201815/11/201823


Independent specialist colleges InspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
Expanse Group Ltd24/09/201813/11/201833


Employer providersInspectedPublishedGrade
Marshall of Cambridge Aerospace Ltd 04/10/201815/11/2018M


Independent Learning ProvidersInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
CMS Vocational Training Ltd17/10/201816/11/2018M 
Academy Training Group Limited02/10/201813/11/20184N/A
Impact College09/10/201814/11/201843
Focus Training Limited09/10/201816/11/201833
N-Gaged Training & Recruitment22/10/201801/08/2018M 
Manufacturing Excellence Limited08/10/201812/11/2018M 
Premier People Solutions 22/10/201815/11/2018M 
First Intuition Chelmsford Limited16/10/201816/11/2018M 
FLM Training Ltd11/10/201816/11/2018M 

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