HIGHBURY College has vowed to fight back after receiving a damning Ofsted report that has sent shockwaves through the organisation.
Stella Mbubaegbu CBE, principal and chief executive of the college, told The News she didn’t accept some of the criticism in the report but insisted the further education provider was already on its ‘way back to outstanding’.
After glowing appraisals over recent years Mrs Mbubaegbu admitted the report was ‘not what we expected’ after inspectors concluded the college ‘requires improvement’ - falling two grades from its previous ‘outstanding’ ranking.
Key areas of concern highlighted included how ‘too few students and apprentices make the progress expected of them or achieve their qualifications’; how students do not improve their skills in maths and English ‘quickly enough’ and how too much teaching is ‘uninspiring’.
Other areas inspectors identified included how leaders and governors were ‘slow to reverse the college’s decline in performance’ and how there has been no improvement in the quality of teaching, learning and assessment.
It was also levelled against Highbury that ‘too few students and apprentices have a good understanding of British values’.
Mrs Mbubaegbu confessed she was at a loss over aspects of the report after not being sure ‘how they put it together’. She said: ‘It is obviously a major disappointment to go from an outstanding Ofsted report to “requires improvement” especially after we had judged ourselves as being good. We were still rated outstanding in some areas though.
‘The weight of the report seems to be focused more on 16-18 year-olds, which makes up 30 per cent of our college, rather than our adult age group of 19-plus where our achievement rate is 92 per cent, which is 10 per cent above the national average.
‘We have many strengths such as working with employers, a curriculum that provides great links and apprentices that are progressing well in the workplace.
‘We have all these strengths - which is what we are all about - but there seems to be a weighting where it is all about the 16-18-year-olds and the decline in achievement in maths and English and attendance. This is a problem for the whole city, though, as frankly they do not want to attend. This a problem we have been working hard on for years.
‘We are working very hard to turn things around and get students to achieve what they were not able to do in five years at school.’
Countering allegations against poor teaching standards, Stella admitted it was ‘strange’ especially with the college especially ‘proud’ of this area. ‘We’re all very disappointed at the way teaching and learning has been portrayed,’ she said. ‘I do not agree our teaching is uninspiring at all.’
She added: ‘The majority of our students are doing well and are gaining the practical skills needed for the workplace. We are independently validated every year, we have teacher performance reviews and we invest a lot in developing teaching and assessments.
‘There is a determination across the entire college to demonstrate that we are better than this (report).’