Ofsted Watch: Three councils told adult learning requires improvement

Three local authorities have been told by Ofsted that their provision of adult and community learning ‘requires improvement’.

Birmingham City Council and Swindon Unitary Authority both slipped from grade two to grade three in reports published this week, while Kettering Borough Council kept its grade three rating.

Swindon Unitary Authority’s adult community learning service was inspected on September 26. Although staff from the council take responsibility for strategic leadership, quality assurance and providing guidance to learners, all the courses are provided by eight subcontractors.

However, Ofsted found managers and leaders were not monitoring closely or being sufficiently critical about the quality of provision delivered by subcontractors, or making sure improvements are being carried out.

Tutors were also criticised for not taking the abilities and aspirations of learners into account  or setting clear objectives for developing skills and knowledge, while managers do not set high enough standards for the quality of assessment or collect information on learner destinations and the impact of courses on learner progression.

However, the service – which is mainly used by learners from disadvantaged communities on non-accredited courses to improve their communication, English and mathematics skills – was commended for its “well-considered curriculum” taking into account skills shortages, gaps in learning and community needs and providing a “safe and welcoming environment” to help learners progress.

Birmingham City Council provides accredited and non-accredited programmes at entry level, level one and level two through the Birmingham Adult Education Service (BAES). The service provides over 2,000 courses annually from 10 main centres and 60 partner venues.

 During its inspection on September 26, Ofsted found that managers had “an inflated view of the quality of teaching, learning and assessment” with learners left unprepared for their next steps despite high achievement rates, while data collected on learner outcomes is “too positive and does not support meaningful analysis or the production of specific improvement actions”.

It also found that senior managers are not held to account sufficiently, with senior leaders in governance roles criticised for not requesting performance reports or knowing “enough about the quality of provision” to set improvement goals.

The service was commended for creating a “harmonious learning environment” with well-qualified tutors and well-behaved learners,  but Ofsted warned not enough was being done to raise awareness of online safety or the dangers of radicalisation.

Kettering Borough Council’s adult and community learning service retained its grade three ranking when it was inspected on September 20.

The quality of lessons at Kettering Borough Training was described by Ofsted as “not consistently good enough” with too few learners achieving their planned qualifications or targets and not enough help to make sure learners are able to take part in additional training programmes.

Although the service does give “good support and care” to help students address their barriers to learning and develop in confidence, managers were said to not monitor performance well enough to raise standards.

Elsewhere in the sector, employer provider Nestor Primecare Services dropped from a grade three to four. Now known as Allied Healthcare, and one of the country’s largest providers of domiciliary healthcare staff, the service was found to have “no key strengths” when it was inspected on September 19.

Management was criticised for an “abject failure to challenge themselves and their teams to deliver high outcomes”, with weaknesses identified in safeguarding, teaching, learning, assessment, governance, quality assurance and student guidance.

 Stratford-upon-Avon College also dropped from a grade two to three after an inspection on September 19 found the college did not consistently create good teaching or outcomes for learners, with teachers behaving inefficiently in planning, teaching and assessments.

Ofsted accused senior leaders of not providing governors with enough information to allow them to be held to account, although it acknowledge achievement rates were high with most learners and apprentices developing a good range of skills.

Also inspected on September 19, Grantham College climbed up the rankings from a grade three to a grade two, with improvements noted in the standards of teaching, learning and assessment and learner outcomes.

The Lincolnshire-based college was commended for good partnerships with local and regional employers, although Ofsted warned that too many students were on work placements that were not linked to their studies or being monitored effectively and assessments of mid-year grades were not always reliable.

Reading-based independent learning provider BPP Holdings Limited kept its grade two ranking at an inspection on September 26, as did four colleges which received short inspections: Kingston Maurward College in Dorset (inspected October 10), EMBS Community College  in Oxford (inspected October 4), Adult Education In Gloucestershire (inspected October 3) and Lincolnshire-based Community Learning in Partnership (inspected October 4).

Adult and Community Learning Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Birmingham City Council  26/09/2017 03/11/2017 3 2
Swindon Unitary Authority  26-Sep-17 01-Nov-17 3 2
Kettering Borough Council  20/09/2017 02/11/2017 3 3


Employer providers Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Nestor Primecare Services Limited  19-Sep-17 02-Nov-17 4 3


GFE Colleges Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Grantham College 19-Sep-17 31-Oct-17 2 3
Stratford-upon-Avon College 19-Sep-17 30-Oct-17 3 2


Independent Learning Providers Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
BPP Holdings Limited  26/09/2017 02/11/2017 2 2


Short inspections (remains grade 2) Inspected Published
Kingston Maurward College 10-Oct-17 01-Nov-17
EMBS Community College Ltd  04-Oct-17 01-Nov-17
Adult Education In Gloucestershire  03/10/2017 01/11/2017
Community Learning in Partnership (CLIP) 04/10/2017 01/11/2017

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