The governors and staff at Croydon College have been handed a demanding set of 12 recommendations by a Government-appointed intervention team, following the institution’s “Inadequate” Ofsted report earlier this year.
The inspectors from the Further Education Commissioner spent a couple of days at the college campuses in the town centre and at Coulsdon Sixth Form College in June.
Their 17-page report makes it very clear that they expect much-improved exam results, particularly from Coulsdon, at the end of this academic year.
The report, which was handed to Croydon College’s chair of governors, Professor Tony Stevenson, at the end of last month, says that “progress has been made” since February’s Ofsted inspection, but that “the pace of corrective action needs to be increased”.
The Ofsted inspection was the first conducted at the college since the merger with Coulsdon Sixth Form College in 2018.
The inspectors found troubling examples of “radicalisation and extremism”, and reported “homophobic taunts” and young women feeling “uncomfortable” in the college’s common areas.
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”.
Absence rates from lessons were unacceptably high, particularly at Coulsdon.
The Further Education Commissioners now expect the college’s management to develop a five-year strategic plan.
The latest report says, “Organisational progress since the merger between Croydon and Coulsdon colleges… has been too slow, particularly the formation of a single organisational identity through harmonisation of cultures and purpose.”
And they add: “Recognising that the 16- to 18-year-old achievement at Coulsdon in 2022-2021 was extremely poor, in-year data forecasts a significant recovery during the current academic year. However, teaching, learning, and assessment, particularly at the Coulsdon campus, remains an area that requires further improvement.”
They found that attendance, particularly at Coulsdon, “is still too low for too much of the provision”.
The commissioners did find that practice at Coulsdon to ensure all learners feel safe “has
been strengthened through an increased visibility of staff (including senior managers), teachers more consistently challenging and confronting poor learner behaviour and
effective consultation with staff and students.
“Students interviewed at both colleges report that behaviour is respectful, positive, and tolerant between peers and staff. They understand the connections between British values, equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and their responsibilities as students.”
Croydon College have yet to publish any response on their website to the FE Commissioner’s report.
Among the recommendations given to the college, which operates on a £30million annual turnover, was the need for that five-year improvement plan “that provides the [Further Education Commissioners] and [Department for Education] with confidence that the actions will drive the changes needed to address the areas for improvement identified in the Ofsted Inspection Report…”. The college chief exec, Caireen Mitchell, and the governors are expected to produce theat improvement plan this month.
Other recommendations include a “harmonisation strategy” across the two colleges (due by next January), and for the chair of governors and CEO to ensure that “governors understand what it is like to be a student at Croydon College”. This is also expected to be completed by this month.
The governors are also now required to monitor key performance indicators throughout the academic year. And they need to have implemented by the start of this current academic year an “attendance improvement strategy and allied action plan” as a priority.
The Commissioner gives Croydon College a glowing report on its finances, though this may well be to counter any suggestions that lack of funding from central government is, in any way, responsible for other shortcomings.
In his covering letter with the commissioners’ report sent to Croydon College, Robert Halfon, the Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education, wrote, “It is clear that the college has begun to address the weaknesses identified by Ofsted, although there is still work to be done.
“I have accepted the recommendations of the FE Commissioner and urge the college to
ensure they are implemented.”
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