Ofsted watch: Good week for colleges but private providers heavily criticised

In a week that celebrated colleges two improved to ‘good’, but it’s been difficult for apprenticeship training providers with three more damning monitoring reports published.

Both Bury College and Middlesbrough College have improved from a grade three to a grade two while apprenticeship providers Construction Gateway, NSL and Invisage all received ‘insufficient’ results from Ofsted, meaning they could be barred from taking on new apprentices.

Bury College had been told it ‘requires improvement’ after an Ofsted visit in January last year, but received praise now having a “clear vision for to achieve excellent outcomes and positive futures for students and apprentices”.

Teachers were described as “knowledgeable and well qualified”, offering “high-quality” support for learners, including those with high needs, while achievement rates have risen in almost all areas.

However, it was warned that its apprenticeship provision ‘requires improvement’, with concerns raised over the support and feedback given and not enough apprentices achieving their qualifications on time.

Middlesbrough College was also deemed to be ‘good’ after an inspection in September, having been rated as grade three in September 2016.

Leaders were praised for creating “a culture of respect and tolerance in which they successfully raise learners’ aspirations”, and for taking “swift and effective action” to improve the quality of vocational study programmes.

But it was also warned its apprenticeship provision ‘requires improvement’, with too many making slow progress, and too few achieving high grades in GCSE English and maths.

The news was less positive for three of the four apprenticeship training providers which had early monitoring visits published this week.

Bedfordshire-based Construction Gateway, which had just 79 apprentices when it was visited on September 11, was deemed to be making ‘insufficient progress’ in every category.

Inspectors criticised leaders for not improving the quality of teaching or sufficiently challenging apprentices. Assessors were said to “solely focus on the completion of workshops and task sheets” and trainers do not “help apprentices to correct punctuation, spelling and grammatical errors”.

The report said that “too many” agency staff did not have up-to-date safeguarding training, and not enough apprentices knew how to report concerns.

However, directly employed staff did have sufficient safeguarding training, and inspectors noted leaders had “effective links” to the construction housing sector to ensure apprentices achieved technical skills.

NSL, based in Slough, had 124 apprentices when Ofsted visited on September 12, and was found to be making ‘insufficient progress’ in two areas.

The report said leaders and managers did not have “sufficient oversight” of the progress of apprentices or a formal process for monitoring the quality of teaching, but do “share a vision and ambition to provide high-quality apprenticeship training”.

Apprentices make “slow progress”, with a “high proportion” failing to meet the submission deadline for a “substantial proportion” of their assignments or failing to resubmit work when their original work had not passed.

London’s Invisage, which had 147 apprentices when Ofsted visited on September 19, also made ‘insufficient progress’ in two areas.

Directors and managers “have not implemented the apprenticeship standards well enough” and do not ensure apprentices make good progress, the report found, adding that a “high proportion” make slow progress.

However, inspectors found that apprentices were “motivated and enjoy their learning”, while staff have developed “positive relationships” with employers.

First Intuition, also based in London, was the only apprenticeship provider not to receive any ‘insufficient’ judgments. Leaders and managers had a “clear strategic vision” and apprentices received “good support”.

So far, all apprenticeship providers found to be making ‘insufficient progress’ in at least one area up until the end of September have been barred from taking on new starts until their next full inspection. The Education and Skills Funding Agency will now have to decide whether to also ban Construction Gateway, NSL and Invisage.

Elsewhere, Slough Borough Council’s adult and community learning service received a monitoring visit after being rated ‘requires improvement’ in January.

Inspectors warned it was making ‘insufficient progress’ in teaching adult learners to keep safe online and improving the quality of teaching, but it was praised for improving the progress and attainment of adult learners and securing information about learners’ next steps.

Staffordshire provider Enabling Development Opportunities was rated ‘requires improvement’ in its first ever inspection, with inspectors warning staff do not measure progress or challenge learners well enough but praising the range of courses and “highly effective” links with employers.

In another first inspection, the West Midlands Ambulance Service was rated ‘good’ across the board, with praise given to the employer provider’s “sound curriculum pathway” and the “high levels of competency” developed by student paramedics.

Independent specialist college Oakwood Court College, which offers vocational learning for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities across bases in Devon and Cornwall, maintained its ‘good’ rating at a full inspection on September 11. Inspectors praised the “excellent progress” of learners and “highly individualised” teaching at the college, and said personal development, behaviour and welfare of students was ‘outstanding’.

GFE CollegesInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
Bury College18/09/201818/09/201823
Middlesbrough College11/09/201818/10/201823


Independent Learning ProvidersInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
Enabling Development Opportunities Ltd18/09/201815/10/20183N/A
Construction Gateway Limited 13/09/201818/10/2018MN/A
NSL Limited 12/09/201818/10/2018MN/A
First Intuition Limited28/08/201815/10/2018MN/A
Invisage Limited19/09/201817/10/2018MN/A


Adult and Community LearningInspectedPublishedGrade
Slough Borough Council 26/09/201815/10/2018M


Employer providersInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
West Midlands Ambulance Service25/09/201817/10/20182N/A


Independent specialist colleges InspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
Oakwood Court College (Phoenix Learning Care Ltd)11/09/201816/10/201822

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