West London College with four sites slammed by Ofsted for constant staff shortages cancelling lessons and ‘only encouraging students to do bare minimum’

Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College has sites in Ealing, Hammersmith, Park Royal and Southall.

A group of colleges across West London have been slammed by Ofsted for constant staff shortages which have seen lessons cancelled, and for some staff only encouraging students to do the bare minimum to pass their courses. Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College, which has four main sites in Ealing, Hammersmith, Park Royal and Southall, has been rated ‘requires improvement’ overall by the education watchdog, with seven out of the nine individual categories assessed also requiring improvement.

Inspectors found that students on adult learning programmes do not receive good enough teaching resulting in a low proportion of students achieving their goals. Apprentices received a varied quality of teaching depending on what course they did. Some did have a positive experience on their course whilst others were not trained to a consistently high enough standard or not coached well in developing professional behaviours and standards for the workplace.One key issue picked out by inspectors, who visited on January 17, was a lack of staff cover meaning that lessons were routinely being cancelled at short notice, disrupting students’ learning. The colleges cater for 4,200 students on adult learning programmes, covering everything from carpentry and hair dressing to plumbing and electrical installation.

Karen Redhead OBE, Principal and CEO of West London College, said: “We appreciate the Ofsted team’s recognition of the college’s many strengths and their acknowledgement that we have already begun taking action to improve.

“As a college, we have been on an arduous recovery journey to ensure our long-term future, improving our financial health against an increasingly challenging environment with rising inflation and increased costs. We have also been working hard to ensure that staffing levels are maintained in a highly competitive market where teacher vacancies are close to double pre-Covid levels (National Foundation for Educational Research).

“The report is clear that we are honest, self-critical, have ‘a well-set out plan’ for improvement to happen, and that some positive impact is already evident. Our learners are at the heart of this plan and we are confident that our ongoing efforts will lead to improved outcomes. We look forward to working with Ofsted and our other key stakeholders on this journey.”

Since the last inspection in 2017, which rated the colleges ‘good’, college leaders and managers have been harshly impacted by the financial challenges the college has faced, resulting in the quality of education declining. Learners were also let down with a lack of constructive feedback, no expectations about attendance and monitoring of attendance, and a lack of awareness of “enrichment activities” on offer or they were not able to attend them due to timetable restrictions. Consequently, too many learners and apprentices are not developing essential skill for employment, inspectors said.

The report, written by a team of Ofsted inspectors led by Mike Finn and published on March 17, states: “Leaders need to ensure that on education programmes for young people, they have sufficient staff to teach the courses, and suitable contingency plans in place where staff are absent, so that lessons are not disrupted and learners have amore consistent and stable learning experience, so that they can make good progress.”

Among the positives, inspectors said learners and apprentices appreciated that tutors went out of their way to help and support them if they had concerns. In addition the arrangements for safeguarding were effective.

Governors have set out to ensure improvement in the school by “challenging leaders to strengthen the support offered to underperforming teachers”. As a result, leaders have recruited teaching and learning managers to provide more focused coaching to improve tutors’ teaching skills.

The report concludes: “Leaders must improve the quality of education across the provision. They must ensure that all programmes are sufficiently challenging for learners and that the quality of teaching and assessment is improved, so that a greater proportion of learners and apprentices stay on their programmes and go on to make good progress.”

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