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Havant College standards slip as watchdog cites loss of staff

The loss of experienced teachers has been blamed for slipping standards at a college once considered the best in its area.

Havant College had a reputation as the top A-level college in south east Hampshire and attracted students from as far afield as Bognor Regis, Petersfield, Portsmouth and Fareham.

A 2006 Ofsted report said standards in many subjects were outstanding and leadership was good. But a recent inspection report from the education watchdog said standards have declined, and it now rates the college as 'satisfactory'.

Exam results for AS-levels are below national averages for sixth form colleges. Tutorial work is less effective and there are fewer good and outstanding lessons than would be typically seen in a sixth form college. The inspectors highlighted the loss of experienced teachers and management changes brought about by principal John McDougall after he took over in December 2006.

He wanted to move the college away from attracting high-flyers with its A-level speciality and offer more vocational courses to entice those disillusioned with education. He also wanted to cut down on the wage bill and the number of managers.

About 40 lecturers went on strike in May 2007 in protest at the move.

But while about 20 staff left, Ofsted pointed out that not all those who remained are fully committed to senior managers.

The report also said there were too many weak students enrolled for GCSE courses, and broadening the curriculum has not been fully successful as few students opt for vocational courses.

The report is the latest blow for the college. In March plans to build a world-class 43m new campus were axed after a freeze on funding by the government. And in June the college announced it was cutting all 74 of its 'pleasure and leisure' classes, such as belly dancing and first aid, to save 80,000.

Mr McDougall is currently away on leave. But in a statement, he said: 'This was a tough but fair inspection in which many of the college's strengths were recognised.

'However, there were only two inspectors who spent just two days at the college and observed just four lessons out of the 500 which take place every week.

'Inevitably they could only scratch the surface but there are lessons to learn and we are already implementing our action plan to take the college forward.'

The report did, however, praise many aspects of college life, describing it as a caring community where pastoral support for students was good.

Careers support and help with university applications was excellent and the financial management of the college is good.

LATEST BLOW

The Ofsted report is another blow to Havant College after making headlines for the wrong reasons in the past few months:

In March plans to build a world-class 43m campus were axed after a shock freeze on funding by the government. It was one of 65 colleges in the country that had bids for funding halted.

In June the college announced it would slash all 74 'pleasure and leisure' courses like belly dancing and first aid courses to save 80,000 next year, as fewer adults were signing up for them.

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