Chelmsford college’s Ofsted rating downgraded

Senior staff at Writtle College “have not taken swift action to stem the decline in quality” over the past nine years for adult students and apprentices.

Ofsted inspectors say the decline in standards has left “too much inconsistency in the quality of teaching across different programmes”.

The college in Chelmsford has now been rated Requires Improvement by Ofsted following an inspection at the beginning of October. It had been rated Good under its previous inspection in 2014.

Of the 984 students, 192 are apprentices, most of whom are on standards-based apprenticeships in veterinary nursing, tree surgery, land-based services, equine grooming, horticulture and landscape construction.

A statement as part of a report published on November 24 said: “Since the previous inspection, the quality of education for adults and apprentices has declined. Leaders and governors have not taken swift action to stem the decline in quality.

“As a result, there is too much inconsistency in the quality of teaching across different programmes. Although most young students receive good-quality teaching and achieve their qualifications, this is not the case for adult students and apprentices. Too few apprentices at level 2 complete their programmes and too few adult students make good progress.”

Ofsted said that although most young students receive good-quality teaching and achieve their qualifications, this is not the case for adult students and apprentices. Too few apprentices at level 2 complete their programmes and too few adult students make good progress.

Teachers of young students use a variety of teaching strategies effectively to check students’ understanding.

But Ofsted added that in adult learning and apprenticeship lessons, teachers do not check understanding before moving on to new subjects. Additionally, leaders, teachers and support staff do not have the appropriate professional training to support students with high needs and those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). Although leaders have taken early steps to implement improvements, it is too soon to positively impact students.

In summary, the college has been told to increase the proportion of adult students and apprentices that achieve their qualifications and achieve distinction grades.

It also wants to see an increase in the proportion of teachers who participate in the professional development of their teaching skills and an increase in the training for staff to support the educational needs of students with SEND.

A statement from Writtle College said: Writtle University College’s apprenticeship programmes play a key role in addressing skills shortages, supporting local economies and transforming the lives of students. The qualifications our students go on to achieve are as important and valued as ever.

“Ofsted’s report highlighted our good practices in many areas, and we will make sure these are implemented across all of our apprenticeship courses. We have already put an action plan in place to address the specific points raised in this report and we look forward to demonstrating rapid progress.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter