Ofsted urges Barnfield College to step up efforts to improve

Barnfield College campus in New Bedford Road, Luton.
Barnfield College campus in New Bedford Road, Luton.

A college that was told it had no strengths whatsoever has improved but still has a number of serious shortcomings, according to Ofsted.

Barnfield College was plunged into crisis in January when the schools watchdog branded it ‘inadequate’ and demanded ‘urgent’ changes across the board.

Barnfield College campus in New Bedford Road, Luton.

Barnfield College campus in New Bedford Road, Luton.

Inspectors deemed the college’s leadership, teaching and pupil attainment to be in freefall, adding that attendance, punctuality and behaviour were all ‘poor’.

In what was seen as an attack on former principal and chief executive Sir Pete Birkett, college chair Robin Somerville laid blame for the damning report on a “significant majority of the previous management, governors and teaching staff”.

In a follow-up visit to the New Bedford Road college Ofsted inspectors have said that reasonable improvements have been made in a number of areas, but warned that serious weaknesses are still evident in the quality of English and maths teaching.

A report published yesterday reads: “The quality of teaching and learning is too variable and the proportion of teaching and learning which requires improvement or is inadequate is too high.

Barnfield College campus in New Bedford Road, Luton.

Barnfield College campus in New Bedford Road, Luton.

“Significant changes in several teaching teams have caused disruption to learners.

“A few staff struggle to achieve the high standards now expected of them but, in the interim, they continue to teach classes.

“Learners complain that there have been too many changes of teachers in English and mathematics in this academic year.”

The report adds that since the arrival of new principal Tim Eyton-Jones a higher standard of teaching across the whole college has been expected, which “has been effective in helping to raise the standards of teaching and has also been the catalyst for several staff to leave the college.”

Inspectors also found that the behaviour of students has “improved considerably” and that Mr Eyton-Jones has “worked effectively” in rebuilding relationships between Barnfield and local employers.

However the levels of attendance “are not improving”.

On the findings the principal said: “This is the best report the college has received from Ofsted for quite some time, however much more needs to be done.

“We are appointing a new management team and investing heavily in the curriculum.

“Our mantra is high standards and high aspirations in everything we do.”

Mr Eyton-Jones added: “Many new courses will be introduced for September 2015 that will lead directly to high quality jobs in Luton and the surrounding area, with a particular focus on engineering and technology.

“This is definitely a good time to be joining the college.”