Ofsted watch: Providers score highly in first run of early monitoring reports for specialist colleges

Two providers scored highly in the first run of Ofsted early monitoring reports for specialist colleges, in a week that saw a struggling general FE college receive its ninth inspection report in just six years.

From autumn 2019, Ofsted started to carry out monitoring visits to independent specialist colleges newly ESFA-funded from August 2018 onwards.

The first of these reports was published on Tuesday, when Aurora Boveridge College, a day and residential college for 46 16 to 25-year-olds, made ‘significant progress’ in all three areas judged.

Inspectors found its leaders “have very high expectations of what students can achieve,” and have introduced a level three maths programme for learners who enjoy the subject and want to do it at A-level.

They reported the provider used high needs funding “very effectively” and a lot of learners found its location in rural Dorset conducive to their learning.

The other specialist provider which received one of these new monitoring visits, which were set out in Ofsted’s new inspection framework, was Lighthouse Futures Trust.

It received ‘reasonable progress’ ratings in all areas, with the inspectorate praising its supported internship scheme for young people aged 18 to 25 years in Leeds.

Most of the interns have autism spectrum conditions or emotional or mental health needs and leaders work “relentlessly” to ensure programmes lead to “meaningful and sustainable employment”.

Ofsted said it had decided, as with other new private providers, to do a monitoring visit within 24 months of the specialist colleges beginning to operate. These monitoring visits will be covered by the inspectorate’s existing budget – no new funding has been made available.

Fellow specialist RNIB College Loughborough had a short inspection following a grade two rating in 2017, which it has retained this time around.

Elsewhere, general further colleges had a mostly negative week.

City of Bristol College, which has 2,900 16-18 students, just under 4,000 adult learners and 1,066 apprentices, received its ninth inspection report since 2013, when it was rated ‘inadequate’.

It moved up to ‘requires improvement’ in 2017, and its latest full inspection also provided a grade three.

Ofsted said the learning of many young people and apprentices has been “interrupted” by changes to the curriculum and gaps in teaching staff, but most are “optimistic” that leaders are tackling these problems this year.

Suffolk New College, which was rapped by Ofsted in July for failing to protect learners from “acute risk of self-harm”, was also handed a grade three this week for its provision to 2,254 study programme learners, 1,000 adult learners, 208 learners with high needs and 500 apprentices.

This is partly because managers did not assess the needs of learners on supported learning courses accurately on their entry to the college, so many of them are on programmes that are too easy for them.

Managers “lack aspiration” for what supported learning course learners can and want to do, and their students do not rapidly learn the skills they need to become more independent.

But leaders and managers were commended for securing the financial sustainability of the college, and for the “effective” use of subject experience by well-qualified teachers.

Colleges’ one bright spot was Cheshire College – South and West achieving its first ‘good’ score since it was formed from a merger of South Cheshire College and West Cheshire College.

Governors were commended for continuing to securing improvements in quality of education during the merger process.

Employer provider North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust achieved a grade two in its first full inspection. Its 251 apprentices “come to work and want to make a difference,” inspectors wrote.

The provider places the apprenticeship programme at the heart of its workforce development programme and plan off-the-job training in a “logical” way to help employees link theory to practice.

Independent training providers have had a ‘good’ week: The Derbyshire Network, The Lightbulb Limited, L.I.T.S. Limited all kept that grade from a previous inspection.

Gower College Swansea was found to be making ‘reasonable progress’ in safeguarding after originally being rated ‘insufficient’ at an early monitoring visit.

However, TVS Education has been found to have made ‘insufficient progress’ in two areas of an early monitoring visit.

Leaders do not intervene when an apprentice, of which it has 88, is at risk of not completing their programme.

Governance arrangements at TVS are “weak” and “nobody holds senior managers to account for their performance”.

Several other providers had early monitoring visits and made ‘reasonable progress’ in every area: Floortrain (GB), Merlin Supply Chain Solutions Ltd, Wildes Education Limited, YH Training Services Limited, Zenith People Limited, Catch 22 Charity Limited.

GFE Colleges Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Cheshire College – South and West 15/11/2019 10/12/2019 2 N/A
City of Bristol College 12/11/2019 11/12/2019 3 3
Suffolk New College 12/11/2019 13/12/2019 3 M


Independent Learning Providers Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Floortrain (GB) 21/11/2019 09/12/2019 M N/A
Gower College Swansea 26/11/2019 11/12/2019 M M
Merlin Supply Chain Solutions Ltd 21/11/2019 10/12/2019 M N/A
The Derbyshire Network 12/11/2019 11/12/2019 2 2
TheLightbulb Limited 29/10/2019 12/12/2019 2 2
Wildes Education Limited 21/11/2019 10/12/2019 M N/A
YH Training Services Limited 14/11/2019 12/12/2019 M 3
Zenith People Limited 21/11/2019 12/12/2019 M N/A
Catch 22 Charity Limited 20/11/2019 13/12/2019 M 3
L.I.T.S. Limited 11/11/2019 13/12/2019 2 2
Makers Academy Limited 21/11/2019 13/12/2019 M N/A
TVS Education Limited 27/11/2019 13/12/2019 M N/A


Adult and Community Learning Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
BOSCO Centre 13/11/2019 13/12/2019 2 2


Employer providers Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust 12/11/2019 13/12/2019 2 M


Specialist colleges Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Aurora Boveridge College 07/11/2019 12/12/2019 M N/A
Lighthouse Futures Trust 13/11/2019 12/12/2019 M N/A
RNIB Charity trading as RNIB College Loughborough 20/11/2019 13/12/2019 2 2

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