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In the News

Ofsted Watch: First inspection since merger produces ‘good’ result

A college inspected for the first time since a merger was rated ‘good’ in a week that saw local authority provision struggle. Bath College, which was formed in April 2015 from a merger of City of Bath College and Norton Radstock College, was found to be grade two across the board. The report commended teaching, student behaviour and high quality facilities at the college, as well as the “excellent support” given to disadvantaged and vulnerable learners and those with additional needs at an Ofsted inspection on January 16.  Inspectors found that a high proportion of learners move on to employment or higher levels of education or training, and noted that staff have built strong relationships with partners, stakeholders and local employers. Sunderland City Council was, however, handed an ‘inadequate’ rating, which raised concerns about radicalisation, “deterioration” in the achievement of apprentices and poor subcontracted apprenticeship delivery. The council, which had been rated ‘good’ back in 2014 and trains just over 3,000 learners, said it was “disappointed” about the findings of the report. It was also not a ‘good’ week for Slough Borough Council, which received its second ‘requires improvement’ rating for its community learning and skills provision after an inspection on...

College group giant welcomes move to campus level inspection

The nation’s largest college group has welcomed a change in how it collects data on learners and it is expected to pave the way for campus-level Ofsted inspections. NCG will introduce a new college “campus identifier” field into individualised learner records from 2018/19. The data will identify a “campus within a college group” that is “no longer a separate legal entity”, according to Education and Skills Funding Agency guidance. The intention is to “allow identification of provision delivered across the various sites of merged institutions”. Ofsted may use this information to launch new campus-level inspections from as early as next year. These would allow for reports on colleges that were previously independent, but which now sit within merged groups. Moving to inspections of individual campuses was a logical next step Neither Ofsted nor the Department for Education would say for certain that the new field was being introduced for this reason. However a spokesperson for the inspectorate admitted to being in discussion with the DfE about campus-level inspections. “We will consider it as part of the inspection of the whole college as we review the education inspection framework,” he said. Joe Docherty, chief executive of Newcastle-based NCG, the country’s largest...

Ofsted accused of waste over inspection for just 7 learners

Ofsted has been accused of wasting scarce resources on an inspection that only took into account seven learners. Leicester-based Train Together was rated ‘good’ overall at its first ever inspection last month. But the two-strong inspection team only took seven learners into account, and they were all directly funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency. The provider is also training around 300 learners as a subcontractor for Calderdale College and Lincoln College, but they were ignored because they are the responsibility of the lead contractors. Training standards for a further 65 apprentices was also overlooked, because the provider only “very recently” started running this type of provision. Certain quarters of the sector have suggested the inspection has been a waste of Ofsted resources, at a time when the chief inspector has been asking for more funding to keep tabs on the expanding numbers of apprenticeship providers. We usually get this right, but occasionally the data misleads us Ofsted implied the inspection would not have taken place at all, had it known there were so few directly contracted learners on roll. “Once an inspection has started, we have to inspect the provider as we find it,” a spokesperson said. “We...

Mayors raise concerns over weak adult education budget devolution powers

The six regional mayors tasked with overseeing devolution of the adult education budget have met the Department for Education to “voice concerns” over the process. High among the issues that are worrying the combined authorities are “inadequate” influence and a lack of funding during the transition year, as well as “challenging” timescales for the handing over of power. The transition year is set to take place over 2018/19, after the original plan to fully devolve the budget was delayed by a year. Tim Bowles, the mayor of the West of England combined authority, said the mayors were “encouraged” by the fact the DfE is “actually now listening” to concerns about implementation and that dialogue was “now becoming positive”. He explained that the West of England is expecting between £15 million and £20 million a year once the devolution is implemented in 2019/20, even though this would “never be enough to meet the ambitions that I have”. He also confirmed that his region would be seeking additional funding elsewhere. A report submitted to the Tees Valley combined authority cabinet in November revealed that the authorities were given a choice of two arrangements for the transition year: an “influencing” option or a...