NEWCASTLE College has been downgraded following a confrontational Ofsted inspection.
Dame Jackie Fisher, chief executive of Newcastle College parent company NCG, has launched a formal complaint against Ofsted following the watchdog’s decision to grade the college as good rather than repeating the previous outstanding award.
The Ofsted downgrade was widely expected following an inspection in May in which the team of monitors were asked to leave the premises.
College sources said at the time that senior staff and inspectors had had heated disagreements. The team returned to complete its inspection in June.
Dame Jackie last night said she was “astounded but not surprised” at the final outcome, saying there were obvious flaws in the inspection process.
The Ofsted report does cite many areas in which the college excels, with a handful of issues raised over the “variable” level of support for some students.
Their report said: “The quality of academic support experienced by learners, in the form of tutorials, progress reviews and the use of electronic individual learning plans, is too variable.”
The college insisted this was among few problems raised in a report which showered praise on the college.
Dame Jackie said: “The inspectors ran out of superlatives to describe us, there are more than a hundred mentions of words such as outstanding, exceptional, excellent, superb and successful, more than four on every page.
“The inspectors’ report reads just like that of the handful of other outstanding providers, which is no surprise because I know we are outstanding. As the inspectors found, we offer exceptional teaching and learning which is among the best in the country.”
Dame Jackie added: “The inspectors’ report describes us as outstanding no less than 32 times. So I was astounded to see the final grading of NCG, but not surprised when I saw the flaws in the way the grade was arrived at.”
Among more minor issues raised by the Ofsted team was a concern from students that “the control of heating in some classrooms” should be addressed. Another issue needing to be looked at, students told inspectors, was “the expensive canteens”.
Ofsted said it now wants to see the college “improve both success rates and the progress that learners make in the minority of areas where there is weaker performance.”
The report adds: “In the minority of less effective lessons observed by inspectors attendance was sometimes low, teachers did not use their time well or check the progress of all learners adequately, and they did not challenge learners sufficiently”.
College bosses have said they do not intend to comment further on the nature of the row with inspectors.
Dame Jackie added: “We have officially complained about the process and the outcome and Ofsted have assured us they will investigate it rigorously, so it would not be appropriate to comment further, but I look forward to the outcome of their inquiry.”
Asked about the complaint, Ofsted said it does not comment on individual inspections.