Students’ university dreams may be dashed by teaching issue

Hartlepool Sixth Form College.
Hartlepool Sixth Form College.

COLLEGE students face missing out on university places after it emerged they had been “failed” by a member of staff into producing below-standard work.

A-level students at Hartlepool Sixth Form College spent two years on the Art and Design course.

But it was discovered they had been let down by the staff member, who has since left the college by mutual agreement, as they “misunderstood the standards expected”.

College bosses have now written to universities on the students’ behalf to explain why their work is not as good as it should be, and to plead they are given some leeway when deciding whether or not to award them a place.

Assistant principal Ken Horseman said in the letter: “Unfortunately, there has been an issue with a member of the Art Department, who is no longer with the college, which has had a serious impact on the quality of the students’ work.

“This member of staff was well-qualified and recommended by their previous employer and we had no reasons to doubt the abilities of this teacher.

“However, he has misunderstood the standards expected and failed to guide the students appropriately.”

A total of 22 students on the course were encouraged to produce work using media they were unfamiliar with or which did not reflect their strengths.

Mr Horseman added: “This issue has not only caused a great deal of disruption to their course but also impacted on the students’ ability to focus on their studies.

“The college has tried its hardest to support the students since the issue came to light but we believe that their progress has been hindered substantially and the students will under-perform through no fault of their own.

“Therefore, the college is requesting that you give the above student special consideration when deciding whether or not to award them a place on their chosen course at your university.”

The college’s website states that students often go on to study graphic design, fashion and textile design and marketing and film studies at degree level.

Acting principal Carole Horseman said many colleges write to universities when there has been a staff issue and it is nothing unusual.

She said: “Hartlepool Sixth Form College has a long tradition of supporting its students so that they can successfully take their next step onto university, training or employment.

“In line with all other responsible academic institutions, when there has been a staffing issue during the year or when a student has experienced difficult personal circumstances, we inform the relevant universities so that they can take these into consideration when awarding places.

“Our close working relationships and academic standing with universities is such that this type of dialogue greatly benefits our students to the extent that last year 94 per cent of our students achieved places at the universities of their choice.

“This year we experienced a staffing issue in the Art Department which was dealt with as soon as it came to light and extra staffing, which included an experienced Awarding Body Moderator for Art, was brought in to mitigate against any possible drop in standards.

“Parents were informed that we had contacted universities so that they could be assured that admissions tutors will take this into consideration when allocating places later this month.

“The new term will see a full team of talented and experienced staff in the Art Department who are already working extremely well under the direction of Lindsay Park who is also an experienced moderator for the relevant examination board.”