SEND college considers closure after ‘wrong’ Ofsted result

Specialist provider hit with second 'inadequate' report in just over a year

Specialist provider hit with second 'inadequate' report in just over a year

11 Mar 2024, 17:34

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A SEND college is facing potential closure after a second ‘inadequate’ grade from Ofsted, as leaders accuse the watchdog of unprofessional conduct and a “wrong” judgment.

Leighton Education Project is a small college in Kentish Town, London that teaches less than 20 young people with learning disabilities run by charity Elfrida Rathbone Camden.

The college was downgraded from ‘good’ to ‘inadequate’ in June 2022 due to concerns about safeguarding, medical training of staff and its curriculum.

Following a re-inspection in November 2023, the education watchdog said students were still “making slow progress” because the curriculum did not meet their individual needs.

In a statement understood to have been sent to parents and stakeholders, Elfrida Rathbone Camden said Leighton Education Project, which has been teaching young adults with special educational needs like autism since 1983,  was “very disappointed” and is considering whether to close in July this year.

The statement said: “What this second inadequate means for the college and our learners is not yet clear. There will be implications for our funding and the number of learners that will be placed at the college in future.”

This adds to existing “financial pressures” stemming from the college’s falling student numbers.

As a result, a final decision on whether to continue operating in the next school year will be made by March.

Management complained that the college should have been graded as ‘requires improvement’ after “working tirelessly” to improve the curriculum after the last inspection.

In a message shared with FE Week, management said: “We submitted a formal complaint to Ofsted explaining why we felt our grading was wrong and also detailing unprofessional conduct by the inspection team during the inspection.”

However, after an internal investigation, the education watchdog rejected the complaint and published its inspection report today.

FE Week understands that the college felt it did not have enough time to improve its curriculum between the June 2022 inspection and November this year.

In 2023, Ofsted inspectors attended the college at three points for monitoring visits and a final re-inspection.

Reports show that the watchdog recognised that the college had resolved the safeguarding issue – which partly related to having a secure entrance – and had “worked hard” to improve the quality of its curriculum.

But inspectors found that despite the college drafting in “external expertise” to advise on teaching improvements, tutors failed to assess students’ prior knowledge so could not plan a sufficiently “ambitious” core curriculum.

The inspection report said: “They assess all learners on the same topics regardless of their prior learning and how many years they have been at the college.

“Consequently, tutors do not have a good enough overview of what learners know and can do at the start of programmes.”

Other concerns included tutors not being “sufficiently qualified” and not thoroughly checking whether students understand what they are learning.

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