DCSIMG

Slumping £53m Hartlepool college needs ‘improvement’

Hartlepool College of Further Education

Hartlepool College of Further Education

BOSSES at a flagship college have been criticised after exam results faltered as they grappled with budget cuts while settling into their new campus.

Education inspectors found that managers and governors at Hartlepool College of Further Education “did not focus sufficiently on improving teaching, learning and assessment” after the £53m move.

The college, which has around 4,800 full and part-time students, has labelled the report by education watchdogs as a “blip” and is confident of recovering.

They note that exam results fell significantly below the national average in many areas during the first full year in 
the state-of-the-art buildings.

Inspectors from the Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) also conclude that “leadership and management require improvement” and have downgraded the college to the second lowest of four grades.

The college, which has around 4,800 full and part-time students, has labelled the report by education watchdogs as a “blip” and is confident of recovering.

Among the measures it has taken to improve one of its problem areas – attendance and punctuality – is to text students and parents about unexplained absences.

Other criticisms include:

The overall quality of teaching, learning and assessment is not high enough;

Too many students leave courses early without completing qualifications;

GCSE English and maths grades are too low.

The inspectors, who visited for a week at the end of February, accept that principal Michael Bretherick has managed the Stockton Street college through a period of “considerable change”.

This includes moving to its new £53m campus at the start of the 2011-2012 academic year and grappling with £600,000 of funding cuts.

The report also highlights several strengths such as apprentice training, student support, “excellent college facilities”, community and employer links and “committed and well-informed governors.”

But only two out of six assessed subject areas – apprenticeships for engineering and manafacturing and construction and building services – were labelled “good”.

The overall mark, which is classed as “requires improvement” under new Ofsted guildelines, means the Stockton Street college faces another inspection by the end of next year.

It was previously rated “good” when it was last inspected before the move in November 2009.

The report notes: “The principal has steered the college through a period of considerable change, including relocation to a new building, overcoming a significant financial deficit, implementing a revised management structure and revising the curriculum to meet the needs of the strategic plan.

“During this period college managers and governors accept they did not focus sufficiently on improving teaching, learning and assessment.

“As a result students success rates declined from previously high levels to below national averages in most subject areas.

“The principal, senior teams, governors and managers share a clear view that they now need to focus on improving teaching, learning and students’ outcomes as a matter of urgency.”

College vice-principal Darren Hankey said: “We have taken note of what Ofsted have told us and are confident that the report is a blip.

“Indeed Ofsted have already returned to college since the report as part of the support they offer us and they are satisfied with the improvements we are making.”

New measures include greater sharing of good teaching practice between staff.

As for the text messages, Mr Hankey said: “Our attendance was already around 85-90 per cent which is above what many colleges have nationally.

“But we have started to text students and parents to inquire why people are not in college and it seems to be having an effect.”

Only weeks before the inspection the Mail reported how the Skills Funding Agency had clawed back £600,000 from the college’s budget as part of nationwide cuts.

Mr Hankey added: “The report notes our previous good performances and our move to the new college in the year our results dipped.

“We are already looking forward to better results for 2012-13 and are on track to get through the year with a balanced budget without making any compulsory redundancies.”

l A college open event takes place on Tuesday, May 21, between 4pm-8pm and not as earlier stated in an advert provided to us by the college.

 

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