INSPECTORS assessing lessons at the region’s largest college were told to leave after clashing with senior staff.
In an unprecedented move, the Ofsted inspectors had to cut short their inspection at Newcastle College after what was described as a “troubling incident”.
Dame Jackie Fisher, chief executive of NCG, the parent group of Newcastle College, has told staff she now plans to challenge Ofsted’s decision which is set to see the college downgraded from outstanding to good. She has formally complained about the behaviour of some inspectors.
The Journal has been told Ofsted inspectors were offered counselling following a confrontational inspection at the college in May and June.
It is thought the incident which sparked the breakdown in relations did not involve any students and is instead believed to have seen disputes between senior members of the college and inspectors.
An email to staff said: “Unfortunately the inspection came to an untimely end as a result of some troubling incidents.
“However, we finally agreed to allow the inspectors to return and the on-site inspection of NCG has now been concluded.”
The email adds: “Many of you are aware that the Ofsted inspection was not entirely trouble-free. We are planning to pursue with Ofsted some outstanding matters which may improve the grade profile. However, based on Ofsted’s track record in listening to provider complaints, this must be viewed as unlikely, regardless of how strong our case is.”
Ofsted’s inspection saw much of the college’s work rated as good rather than outstanding, a move which will come as a blow to a college which earlier this year was rated by the Department for Education as the number one general further education institution in England for 16 to 18-year-old achievement.
NCG has been at the centre of political controversy over the last two years, with Newcastle Council withdrawing co-operation on one of its projects in opposition to NCG’s plan to open a free school. Ministers last week turned down NCG’s plans.
A spokesman for NCG said: “This briefing was a private memo to staff to update them on the inspection.
“We are awaiting the full report from Ofsted.
“However, their provisional findings say several areas of our teaching are outstanding and the majority are good.
“However, we are very concerned with the way the inspection was conducted and there were some troubling incidents which meant the inspection ended before it was complete. We agreed inspectors could return to complete the inspection last week.
“We have officially complained to Ofsted and are awaiting their response. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.”
An Ofsted spokeswoman said: “While Ofsted does not comment on individual complaints, we do take complaints very seriously, investigating each one rigorously and dealing with issues as quickly as possible.”
Ofsted has introduced a tougher inspection regime under new Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, which makes it harder for schools to make the grade. In April the National Union of Teachers’ annual conference voted to boycott the inspection body over the changes to the way it rates schools.