Central Bedfordshire College needs to improve says latest Ofsted inspection

The quality of education and leadership came under scrutiny

By Lynn Hughes
Friday, 18th March 2022, 3:30 pm
Updated Friday, 18th March 2022, 3:32 pm

The quality of education at Central Bedfordshire College requires improvement, the latest Ofsted inspection has found.

Rebecca Parry, lead inspector for the report, said while the behaviour and attitude of students were good, there were issues with leadership and management, education for young people and apprenticeships.

The main site for the college, which has 1,600 students, is in Dunstable, with further sites in Chartmoor Road, Leighton Buzzard and Dallow Road, Luton.

Central Bedfordshire College - Google Maps

Ms Parry said: "Governors and leaders have not taken effective action to remedy the weaknesses identified at the previous inspection in the quality of apprenticeships provision, which has further declined, and in English and mathematics.

"Leaders do not monitor effectively the small proportion of subcontracted adult provision."

But she added: "Leaders focus on raising the aspirations of learners from disadvantaged and deprived communities. They have established a well-informed vocational curriculum for young learners, and a large, effective community-based offer for adults. Leaders work closely with strategic and economic boards locally, and Job Centre Plus, to ensure that the provision offered meets the needs of local businesses and national priorities."

The apprenticeship courses were criticised with Mr Parry saying: "Managers and assessors have failed to ensure that apprentices complete and achieve their apprenticeship. Too few apprentices benefit from useful reviews of their progress with their employer and assessor. Too many apprentices make very slow progress in their learning, are beyond their expected end date and have fallen significantly behind in completing their apprenticeship work.

"There is much inconsistency between the progress of apprentices by pathway and by subject area. Apprentices on level 3 and level 5 apprenticeship standards do not develop sufficient academic skills such as analysis, evaluation and referencing. The small proportion of apprentices who have completed their final examinations have passed, and around a third have achieved high grades.

"Teachers and assessors do not help learners and apprentices understand the importance of English and mathematics skills for their future employment. Teachers of functional skills English and mathematics qualifications are not suitably experienced or trained to effectively teach these subjects. Too few young learners attend their English and mathematics lessons, and they make slow progress in improving their skills. Too few apprentices who require English and mathematics qualifications as part of their apprenticeship have yet to start this learning.

"Governors do not recognise the full extent of the weaknesses at the college. They, along with leaders, have not acted swiftly enough to remedy them. They do, however, provide effective challenge to leaders on the vocational subjects offered and on financial matters."

But there was praise for the environment at the college with inspectors saying: "Learners and apprentices, including those with high needs, learn in an inclusive, calm and caring environment at the college. They feel, and are, safe in all college sites, community settings and workplaces. Learners respect the importance of safe working practices. In construction and motor vehicle workshops, learners work safely with a variety of tools. In beauty, learners consider the safe working practices associated with the treatments they provide. Learners and apprentices benefit greatly from their experiences. Most young learners and adults hone their skills in meaningful work experience placements.

"Apprentices maximise their opportunities for learning while at work, which enables them to gain crucial new skills. However, too few young learners and apprentices improve the essential English and mathematics skills needed for success in their future employment. Young learners, including learners with high needs, and adults value highly the new skills they gain, and the way staff encourage them to explore their interests and talents.

"They make good progress in developing new skills and knowledge and go on to higher level learning and employment because of their success at college."

The college also received praise for its safeguarding. "Staff are well sighted on risks to learners that are pertinent to the local area, including the rise of ‘incel’ incidents, local gang activity and the low-level anti-social behaviours on public transport. Information is effectively cascaded to staff to ensure they are well informed and support learners effectively," said the report.

The actions inspectors said leaders now need to take is to ensure that the quality of education in apprenticeships rapidly improves. Assessors must work with apprentices’ employers to help apprentices make swift progress in all aspects of their apprenticeship, both at work and when at college.

Leaders must ensure that young learners and apprentices make good progress in improving their English and mathematics skills. They must ensure that teachers of functional skills are appropriately trained to teach these subjects.

Teachers and assessors need to promote the importance of English and mathematics skills so that learners and apprentices value this learning and attend lessons more frequently.  Leaders must provide training for teachers of study programmes to enable them to meet the needs of learners with EHC plans.

Leaders must also ensure that they take action to remedy the weaknesses identified in the subcontracted adult provision. They must ensure that it is of the same high standard as the remainder of the adult curriculum.

The college has been approached for comment.