One of the country’s largest further education institutions has been warned ‘about the risks associated with radicalisation and extremism’ by inspectors who report ‘homophobic taunts’ and young women feeling ‘uncomfortable’ in the college’s common areas
Croydon College, in its first inspection since its merger with Coulsdon Sixth Form College in 2018, has been handed an overall rating of “Inadequate”, following a visit by 14 Ofsted inspectors conducted across both campuses in February this year.
The inspectors said that the colleges need to “eradicate inappropriate behaviour…. They should ensure that learners understand appropriate forms of conduct and behaviour, including respect for each other and how to conduct themselves in lessons”.
And the report says, “Leaders must ensure that tutors teach learners and apprentices about the risks associated with radicalisation and extremism.”
The college’s leadership today expressed “surprise and disappointment” at the Ofsted findings, claiming that “the behaviours of a small number of learners are not behaviours we recognise on a day-to-day basis at our colleges”.
They also claimed that Ofsted’s judgements were “based on historic rather than current data”.
Among the Ofsted report’s eight recommendations for improvement, the inspectors say that Croydon College “must ensure staff are suitably skilled and trained”, and that they should “ensure” that learners “have the knowledge they need” to pass external examinations.
The recommendations require improved attendance and punctuality to lessons, “particularly at Coulsdon” and that the college’s management “must improve the culture across the college, particularly at Coulsdon, so that learners feel comfortable when on campus”.
The further and higher education college, which provides a range of courses from A levels, through apprenticeships, to some degree-level qualifications, had been rated as “Good” at its two previous Ofsted inspections, in 2014 and 2018. The last two inspections at Coulsdon College, in 2014 and 2018, had also delivered “Good” ratings.
Croydon College, located in a bustling town centre site between East Croydon Station and the Fairfield Halls, is now among the biggest further education institutes of its kind in the country, with almost 6,000 on its student roll.
At the time of the inspection, there were more than 2,500 young learners, one-third of which are based in Coulsdon, plus 200-plus apprentices, 2,600 attending adult learning courses, 200 “learners with an education and health care plan who have high needs”, and another 60 or so attending aged 14 to 16 years old who are newly arrived in Britain.
Overall, the Ofsted report makes for uncomfortable reading.
The inspectors say that they found “considerable variation in the quality of teaching”.
They make a distinction between the learners’ experiences at Croydon College, “mostly… positive”, they say, while, at Coulsdon, “too many learners have a poor experience, which is reflected in the low proportion of learners who achieve their qualifications”.
They report: “Young learners’ attendance is too low across the two colleges and particularly at Coulsdon. Leaders do not have high enough expectations regarding attendance and tutors do not consistently challenge lateness…
“A significant proportion of learners who inspectors spoke with do not feel comfortable at college, particularly when using the communal and social spaces.” This applies at both sites but, the inspectors say, “is more marked… at Coulsdon”.
What the inspectors describe as “a significant minority” of learners spoke of “homophobic language and taunting”, while at Coulsdon, “female learners do not feel comfortable in areas such as the student common room…
“Leaders, managers and tutors have not done enough to create a welcoming environment and do not set high enough expectations for learner behaviour.”
The inspectors’ comments are more positive when concerned with older students, and those who may have enrolled on vocational and adult courses. “Adult learners enjoy a positive learning environment and value very highly how they are taught and the support their teachers provide,” the Ofsted team reports.
“Learners… have positive attitudes to learning and develop good study skills.”
“Adult learners benefit from well-planned and taught courses that enable them to learn the knowledge and skills needed to go to university or into a career of their choice.”
English for Speakers of Other Languages – ESOL – of which the Ofsted inspectors say there are “many” at Croydon College, “acquire the language skills they need for employment and to integrate into their local communities”.
And apprentices “are motivated to do well”. The inspectors say: “They enjoy a curriculum that helps them develop highly relevant industry skills.”
But the inspectors have identified staff recruitment issues, a flood at Croydon College and covid as significant set-backs which the colleges’ management have yet to overcome.
“They have not taken effective and rapid enough action to improve the quality of provision and learners’ attendance across the colleges. This is particularly marked for young learners at Coulsdon College and for learners who have high needs at both colleges.”
At Coulsdon, there appear to be acute problems. “Learners at Coulsdon have a poor experience,” the report states.
“Over the past three years, the quality of education has declined.
“In particular, leaders, managers and tutors have been slow to adapt to the change in assessment through examination on vocational programmes. Tutors failed to prepare learners well enough for these examinations and too many learners did not achieve their planned goal.”
As well as poor time-keeping and lateness among students, there also appears to be a significant issue around the attitude of the 16-to-18-year-olds attending many of the courses. “Leaders and managers do not set high enough expectations for young learners’ behaviour and attendance,” the report says.
“While apprentices, adult learners and those with high needs attend well, are polite, respectful and keen to share their positive experiences at the college, a significant minority of young learners do not interact with tutors and their peers in a respectful enough manner…
“Too often, tutors in vocational and academic programmes use the tutorial lessons as an opportunity for learners to catch-up with their coursework. This means that learners and apprentices have limited knowledge and skills needed to make safe and informed decisions on relationships, to understand the dangers of extremism and radicalisation, and to lead a safe and healthy life.”
Since April 2018, Caireen Mitchell has been Croydon College’s principal and CEO.
In a statement issued to Inside Croydon this morning, from Mitchell and Tony Stevenson, the chair of governors, they claimed to be “extremely surprised and disappointed” at the Ofsted inspectors’ findings.
“While we acknowledge there are improvements to be made at both colleges, we feel strongly that the grade given does not fairly reflect what inspectors experienced during their visit and the evidence we provided,” they said.
“The very mixed profile of the inspection report, with two significant areas rated as ‘good’ and many positive comments about the quality of education and outcomes for all learners, does not align with the final grading delivered.
“Ofsted’s concerns about the behaviours of a small number of learners are not behaviours we recognise on a day-to-day basis at our colleges.”
“We are focused on looking forward and want to reassure all our students, parents, employers and stakeholders that our senior leadership team, staff and our board of governors are wholly invested in securing rapid improvement,” they said.
Mitchell and Stevenson say that they are already implementing an improvement plan, with exam results “on track to reach the national average by the end of the academic year”.
Croydon College says that it is looking forward to the Ofsted return visit in six months’ time and “are confident they will see improvements are firmly embedded and continue to generate positive results”.
- Click here to read the Croydon College Ofsted report in full
- Read Croydon College’s response in full by clicking here
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Woah! What prompted the inspectors to say teachers must warn pupils of the dangers of ‘radicalisation’? Does this mean they’re not doing so now? Never heard of this in an Ofsted report .
The College has problems that requires solutions – not denial of existance.
I would hope the College looks carefully at its flaws and deals with them as to fail to acknowledge the reality allows it to continue and grow.
It should also look at its strenghts and build on them, as it has good building blocks to make a real difference and provide a good integrated learning environment for the future.
It neds to seriously look at its employee retention and attraction especially among the those delivering learning. But I would not put too much stock in an OFSTED report and treat it as advice and a bechmark