It’s been an outstanding week for general FE colleges, with one awarded a grade one and a second going up to ‘good’.

But the picture for sixth form colleges has been less positive, with two having slipped from their former grade one ratings.

Wirral Metropolitan College went up from grade three to grade two overall in a report published November 7, and based on an inspection in early October.

The college’s provision for students with high needs was found to be ‘outstanding’, and inspectors noted that these students “make exceptional progress”.

The report noted that changes since the college’s last inspection had “led to significant outcomes in students’ outcomes”, and that leaders and managers had a “clear and ambitious plan to become an outstanding college”.

Achievement rates for students on 16 to 19 study programmes had “improved significantly” from 2015/16 to 2016/17, although “too many” apprentices were making slow progress and failing to complete their courses on time.

As previously reported by FE Week, Fareham College became the third college in six months to be rated ‘outstanding’, in a report published November 10 and based on an inspection in early October.

John Ruskin College, a sixth-form college, went down two grades from its previous ‘outstanding’ rating in a report, published November 8 and based on a report in early October.

College leaders were criticised for being “slow to address the decline in standards since the previous inspection.

The proportion of learners completing their courses was found to be “too low”, while teachers “do not take sufficient account of the full range of learners’ abilities in lessons” which meant that a “minority of learners” made “slow progress”.

But it also noted: “Learners develop good personal, social and employability skills and undertake valuable work experience, which gives them the confidence they need to progress towards the world of work.”

Another SFC, King Edward VI College Stourbridge, was rated ‘good’ overall – down from its previous ‘outstanding’ rating – in a report published November 7 and based on an inspection overall.

Governors, leaders and staff were found to have “high expectations and ambitions” for students, the “large majority” of whom achieved “well”.

Teachers were deemed to “have excellent subject knowledge and a very strong understanding of the requirements of the A-level course and assessments”.

But the report noted: “Despite the actions of leaders and managers, in 2017 too many of the most able students did not achieve the grades of which they are capable.”

Two full adult and community learning provider inspection reports were also published this week – Isle of Wight Council, and City Gateway.

Isle of Wight Council was rated grade three across the board, down from its previous ‘good’ rating, in a report published November 10 and based on an inspection in early October.

Managers were criticised for their “over-optimistic” self-assessment of the service, which did not “take sufficient account of the weaknesses of the provision”.

“Managers have not made sure that the quality of teaching, learning and assessment on English and mathematics courses improves quickly enough, that more learners stay until the end of their courses and that a higher proportion achieve their functional skills qualifications,” the report said.

But the report noted that “most learners” on non-qualification courses “achieve their personal learning goals”.

City Gateway also slipped from a grade three to two, in a report published November 7 and based on an inspection in early October.

Leaders at the charitable provider were found not to have taken “sufficient action to remedy weaknesses identified at the previous inspection”.

“Too few” learners at level 1 and 2 English and ESOL achieved their qualifications, while “too few” learners and apprentices “receive effective careers advice and guidance” – meaning that “too few continue into further training and employment”.

However, “The proportion of apprentices who successfully complete their apprenticeship within the planned time is high.”

Three further adult and community learning providers held onto their grade twos this week, following short inspections, as did one independent training provider.

GFE Colleges Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Fareham College 03/10/2017 10/11/2017 1 2
Wirral Metropolitan College 03/10/2017 07/11/2017 2 3


Sixth Form Colleges Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
John Ruskin College 03/10/2017 08/11/2017 3 1
King Edward VI College Stourbridge 03/10/2017 07/11/2017 2 1


Adult and Community Learning Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Adult and Community Learning Service, Isle of Wight Council 04/10/2017 10/11/2017 3 2
City Gateway 03/10/2017 07/11/2017 3 2


Short inspections (remains grade 2) Inspected Published
Fircroft College of Adult Education 10/10/2017 10/11/2017
Independent Training Services Limited 03/10/2017 08/11/2017
West Yorkshire Learning Providers Ltd 11/10/2017 10/11/2017
Swarthmore Education Centre 03/10/2017 10/11/2017

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