Ofsted watch: Week of extreme contrasts for providers

A week of extreme contrasts for FE saw the second college in two weeks scoop an ‘outstanding’ rating, while an independent learning provider was branded ‘inadequate’ in its first ever Ofsted visit.

Grimsby Institute Group* earned its grade-one report after it asked for its scheduled short inspection to be upgraded into a full one.

The college, which had 10,000 learners over the previous full contract year, received top grades in all headline fields except apprenticeships, which were considered to be ‘good’. Check out FE Week’s full analysis of its success here.

Meanwhile, Lancashire-based independent learning provider Health and Fitness Education was hit with a damning ‘inadequate’ grade across the board.

Health and Fitness Education is based in Chorley, but has training venues in Manchester, Warrington, Doncaster, York, Nottingham, Walsall, Birmingham, Dudley, Durham, Cardiff and London.

It provides training in health and fitness through government-funded advanced learner loans and had around 225 learners at the time of the inspection, mostly studying at level three with some at level four.

The scathing report from the government’s education watchdog deemed the provider inadequate in leadership and management; adult learning programmes; teaching, learning and assessment; personal development; behaviour and welfare; and outcomes for learners.

Ofsted found “almost half of learners” were not achieving their qualifications, and leaders were “too slow to recognise and respond to the poor progress”.

Arrangements for governance, self-assessment and quality improvement, and observing and improving the quality of teaching, learning and assessment were all described as “weak”.

Tutors did not “gather sufficient information on learners’ starting points” and were failing to effectively “record and monitor learners’ progress”.

Ofsted also said learners were not receiving “thorough and impartial advice and guidance” about career plans or future learning and were “unaware of the risks associated with radicalisation and extremism”.

The only strength of the provider was that learners were developing “the knowledge and practical skills they need to work in the health and fitness industry”.

Nine targets for improvement were given, with the first being to “increase significantly the proportion of learners who achieve their qualifications and ensure that they do so within the planned timescales”.

The Isle of Wight College also had a somewhat disappointing outcome form Ofsted this week, as it fell from ‘outstanding’ down to ‘good’.

The Newport-based college, which is the main FE provider on the island, was still rated ‘outstanding’ for its delivery of adult learning programme ad provision for learners with high needs, but was ‘good’ in all other categories.

The report did acknowledge that “the number of young people leaving school with a grade A* to C in GCSE maths and English is significantly below the national average”, meaning “many students attending the college arrive with very low grades”.

The college also works with “a number of home-educated young people”, to give them access to courses and help them to study further.

To bounce back to a grade one, Ofsted recommended the Isle of Wight College works to “increase the proportion of 16- to 18-year-old students who achieve their maths and English qualifications or improve their GCSE grade”,  ensuring “teachers promote the benefits” of these courses to students,  and “improve attendance in lessons”.

The quality of “targets set by staff for students” also needed boosting, by ensuring “assessors set targets to support apprentices in improving their written skills” and “teachers set and review clear and precise targets for all students” to develop “their wider skills”. 

Contrastingly, Telford College of Arts and Technology managed to drag itself out of an ‘inadequate’ rating and back to ‘requires improvement’ this week.

Its provision for learners with high needs was found to be ‘good’ and teachers were praised for promoting safeguarding and British values well.

Leaders and managers were also said to have “responded quickly to ensure that governors and staff receive timely and accurate information about the attendance and achievement of students, enabling them to secure improvements”.

Points for improving further included setting “detailed and precise” targets for students and apprentices and making sure “teachers and assessors pay close attention to promoting high standards in spelling, punctuation and grammar and the skillful use of numeracy”.

Finally, Loughborough College hung on to its ‘good’ grade in a full inspection this week, while Newbury College, Bolton Sixth Form College and East Sussex County Council Adult Education and Family Learning all remained ‘good’ in short inspections.

GFE Colleges Inspected Published  Grade Previous grade
Loughborough College 23/05/2017 28/06/2017 2 2
The Isle of Wight College 23/05/2017 30/06/2017 2 1
Telford College of Arts and Technology 06/06/2017 29/06/2017 3 4
Independent Learning Providers Inspected Published  Grade Previous grade
Health and Fitness Education 23/05/2017 27/06/2017 4 Not previously inspected
Short inspections (remains grade 2) Inspected Published    
East Sussex County Council Adult Education and Family Learning 17/05/2017 27/06/2017    
Newbury College 23/05/2017 28/06/2017    
Bolton Sixth Form College 22/05/2017 27/06/2017    


*Grimsby Institute’s Ofsted report had yet to be uploaded to the Ofsted website at the time of publication.

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  1. Frank Hull

    So,to summarise.FE colleges must not only achieve success in their principal subject areas/disciplines but must also remediate in 1-2 years what has not been accomplished by 4-6 years of full time compulsory education? Am I missing something?

    • Peter Thompson

      I totally agree Frank. Should anyone care to read fully the report of The Isle of Wight College, they will see for themselves the high quality being reported by the inspectorate. Further, they will see that students are happy, safe and progressing well across the board. I do despair of articles like this that fail to contextualize the position. Read the report. IN FULL.