SEND college to close after second ‘inadequate’ rating

Farleigh FE college will close its doors to learners with autism this summer

Farleigh FE college will close its doors to learners with autism this summer

A specialist college for young people with autism is to close after being given an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating for the second time in a year.

Farleigh Further Education College in Frome, Somerset, owned by Aspris Children’s Services, told FE Week that it will shut the college at the end of the summer term due to “ongoing shortcomings” in provision.

The college said it has “no viable option” but to close. “We are sorry for the disruption this will cause,” a spokesperson added.

As of May, the college had 24 learners aged 16 to 25 with autism. All are in receipt of high needs funding.

During its inspection in early May, inspectors found that staff did not take “a small minority” of cases seriously enough when learners reported bullying or harassment. 

The report also found learners’ attendance was too low and staff did not help learners to catch up after an absence.

Inspectors questioned staff teaching methods and a failure to plan curriculum content well enough so it accounts for what learners already know and can do.

While arrangements for safeguarding were effective, inspectors criticised the college’s “minimal” careers guidance and advice to learners and said there was little oversight of skills that learners gained on work placements, leading to “too slow” progress from learners developing work-appropriate skills.

At its last full inspection in February 2022, when the college was given its first ‘inadequate’ rating which prompted the headteacher to step down, inspectors made the same critique over Farleigh’s slow action to address learner reports of bullying and discrimination.

Since then, the college has undergone two monitoring visits, the latest of which was in March this year. Inspectors said the college was making reasonable process to implement improvements.

A spokesperson for the college said: “We set ourselves high minimum standards for the quality of education and support to be delivered, and it has become clear that the college will not be able to meet the required level within what we consider to be an acceptable timeframe.

“As a responsible provider, we have therefore found ourselves with no viable option but to close the service, as we are not prepared to deliver a standard of education, we consider unacceptable in the medium- to long-term.”

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