Ofsted Watch: Luton Sixth Form College slips from grade one

Luton Sixth Form College has become the latest FE provider to lose its prized grade one status.

It follows last week’s Ofsted Watch in which three other providers all fell from ‘outstanding’.

Inspectors said that progress mentors at grade two-overall rated Luton, which teaches over 2,500 learners, do not have the “information that they require” to provide the “swiftest possible support to enable more students to achieve their best”.

They added that students’ achievement on A-level science and maths is “too low and too few students achieve the grades of which they are capable”.

Teachers also do not “consistently challenge” the most able students to make the progress of which they are capable.

Governors, senior leaders and staff at the SFC, which was rated ‘good’ in all headline fields, were however praised for understanding the local community well.

“They use this information to develop a safe, supportive and harmonious working environment and an ambitious culture,” inspectors said.

They added that leaders and managers analysis of learners’ qualification outcomes is “very thorough”, and when they identify declining trends in achievement they take “swift action” to make improvements.

It was better news for two private providers: London Skills for Growth and MPower Training Solutions, who both hopped from a grade three to a two.

Based in Bexley, London Skills for Growth was applauded for improving its teaching, learning and assessment, as well as setting an “ambitious improvement strategy” and ensuring that staff are committed to it.

“Staff have remedied the key areas for improvement identified at the previous inspection,” inspectors said.

The board of trustees has also taken “bold and effective steps” to strengthen its partnership with local colleges, and in doing so, leaders and managers have “secured the long-term future of the organisation”.

Over at the Essex-based MPower Training Solutions, leaders were highlighted for setting personal development, behaviour and welfare at an ‘outstanding’ level.

Leaders and managers promote a “culture of tolerance and mutual respect,” inspectors said, adding: “Consequently, learners and apprentices develop an excellent awareness of a wide range of social and ethical issues they may face in their work and social lives.

“Learners and apprentices take pride in their work and enjoy their time at the training centre.”

It wasn’t such good news for fellow private provider JFC Training College, based in London, which was given a grade three in its first ever inspection.

“Senior leaders do not monitor the quality of provision effectively and do not have a full understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of teaching, learning and assessment,” Ofsted said.

VQ Solutions was also given a grade three, falling from a grade two.

Inspectors said leaders at the Harrogate private provider do not manage the performance of assessors well enough to improve the quality of teaching, learning and assessment.

A ‘requires improvement’ rating was given to the UK’s largest hospitality company, Whitbread PLC.

Leaders at the employer provider, which provides intermediate, advanced and higher-level apprenticeships in hospitality and catering at their Premier Inn hotels and Costa outlets, do not use data “well enough” to check the progress that apprentices make.

Trainers and assessors also do not ensure that apprentices achieve as well as they can.

The Activate Learning Group, which has three main campuses of Reading College, City of Oxford College and Banbury and Bicester College teaching over 9,000 learners, maintained its ‘good’ grade following a full inspection in December.

Among a host of positives, inspectors highlighted governors and senior leaders for providing a “clear strategic direction, vision and mission”.

There were two short inspections, where providers also maintained their grade twos. These were had at the City Of Bradford Metropolitan District Council and The Sixth Form College Colchester.

One monitoring visit report was also published. This was the first for Easton & Otley College since its ‘inadequate’ report in July.

Inspectors said that too much teaching, learning and assessment requires improvement but leaders have responded “well” since the last inspection, particularly ensuring that safeguarding arrangements are effective.


GFE CollegesInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
Easton & Otley College12/12/201723/01/2018MM
Activate Learning12/12/201722/01/201822


Sixth Form CollegesInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
Luton Sixth Form College28/11/201723/01/201821


Independent Learning ProvidersInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
JFC Training College Ltd05/12/201724/01/20183N/A
London Skills for Growth Limited12/12/201724/01/201823
MPower Training Solutions Ltd21/11/201723/01/201823
VQ Solutions Ltd06/12/201722/01/201832


Employer providersInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
Whitbread PLC03/10/201726/01/201832


Short inspections (remains grade 2)InspectedPublished
City Of Bradford Metropolitan District Council06/12/201723/01/2018
The Sixth Form College Colchester14/12/201725/01/2018

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