Troubled West Cheshire College is making reasonable progress towards moving away from its ‘inadequate’ rating, Ofsted believes.
The finding last autumn provoked fury and an unsuccessful appeal from then principal Nigel Davies, who has since moved on.
A monitoring visit by the watchdog earlier this year found that insufficient progress had been made in a number of areas although there was ‘reasonable progress’ in improving the quality of teaching, learning and assessment.
A more recent visit by HMI Steve Hailstone, who has previously assessed the college which has campuses in Ellesmere Port and Chester , found the same progress in eight main aspects which were re-inspected, although concerns remain.
The inspector says governors, leaders and managers have made reasonable progress in producing and implementing a clear action plan to address the areas for improvement identified at last autumn’s full inspection, with the plan having been significantly revised.
Leaders have a ‘much more accurate assessment’ of the college’s current position and evidence of improvements.
The inspector suggests, however, that a review of progress in improving the quality of teaching, learning and assessment is over-optimistic as despite many improvements made there is still too much weak teaching.
The senior leadership team has replaced ‘time-consuming and ineffective programme area reviews’ with a much more targeted approach that identifies accurately those aspects that are at high risk of underperforming.
The new approach provides accurate information that enables leaders and managers to intervene swiftly to make improvements.
Staff at all levels in the college are held to account more effectively for the performance of the courses for which they are responsible although this has not yet had sufficient impact in business, English and maths where too much poor-quality provision remains and learners’ progress is still not rapid enough.
Teachers are more accountable for the success of their learners and managers and teachers now also consider learners’ punctuality, behaviour and standard of work among other aspects.
As a result of these improvements a higher proportion of learners are now on target to achieve at an appropriate level and learners are more aware of what they need to do.
Leaders and managers have placed a ‘strong focus’ on improving attendance, punctuality and learners’ readiness for study and have significantly increased their visibility around the college.
The inspector comments, however, that despite these actions attendance and punctuality remain concerns and attendance is particularly low in English and mathematics lessons.
Training has developed teachers’ skills in keeping learners fully engaged in learning but, adds the inspector: “Too much teaching remains dull and uninspiring and does not motivate learners.
“Lessons often lack sufficient pace and teachers do not always design activities that meet the needs of the most-able learners.”
Several teachers whose performance was weak have now left the college.
Mr Hailstone believes, though: “Despite these improvements, the quality of English and mathematics provision is not yet consistently high.”
Helen Nellist, who is now acting principal and chief executive at the college, said: “We are delighted that our endeavours to improve the overall effectiveness of the college have been recognised and we are now making ‘reasonable progress’ in all areas including improving the quality of English and mathematics provision, taking action to ensure that learners make good progress towards achieving their learning goals and improving the quality of additional learning support.
“This is a positive step for the college and demonstrates that the improvements we have introduced are having an impact across the college.
“We will now continue to work at pace to ensure that these positive changes move the college forward and improve the overall learner experience.”