Ofsted has slammed a sixth-form college after several students didn’t achieve their qualifications because of ‘ineffective’ teaching and admin errors. 

Newham Sixth Form College in Plaistow has been downgraded from ‘good’ to ‘inadequate’ following an Ofsted inspection that took place in February and March

The college, also known as NewVIc, has 2,402 students with a majority aged between 16 and 18 years old.

There are 90 students at the college with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and have education, health and care (EHC) plans.

Two-thirds of students aged between 16 to 18 years old are studying vocational courses relating to a specific skill or job while one-third are studying A-level courses.

During its most recent inspection, the college was given an inadequate rating across three categories; quality of education, leadership and management, and education programmes for young people. The other three categories which were behaviour and attitudes, personal development and provision for learners with high needs, were all given a ‘requires improvement’ rating.

According to inspectors, many students experience ‘disruption to their education’ because of staffing issues, ineffective teaching and administrative errors surrounding exams. During the previous academic year (2022/23), a ‘significant’ number of young people didn’t achieve their qualifications and made poor progress in relation to previous knowledge and attainment.

Inspectors said students with SEND achieve well and acknowledged that some improvements had been made since September 2023, though there are still issues that haven’t been resolved. Students were praised for being respectful of each other and said the strong presence of staff, especially security and youth workers on site, has helped to create a calm and positive environment where young people feel safe and supported.

However, inspectors said students’ attendance and punctuality were not good enough, and college staff do not follow up with those who have low attendance and said there are no appropriate interventions or support in place. Governors and senior leaders were criticised for not doing enough to tackle the ‘poor quality of education’ experienced by students.

Inspectors said: “They had poor oversight of key functions, such as the administration of examinations, for which they failed to put in place effective or rapid enough improvements. They have not made sure that there are adequate learning resources, such as computers, to meet the needs of learners.”

In some taught subjects such as English literature, sport, business and science, teachers were recognised for using a ‘coherent curriculum’ however inspectors said overall, staff don’t plan and teach a curriculum ‘consistently well’.

They added: “…in sport, teachers teach an introduction to psychology, so that learners have the knowledge to understand motivational theory, from which they learn to design a psychological skills training programme. However, in too many cases, teachers do not assess learners’ starting points accurately, and subsequently do not teach the curriculum in a way that builds effectively on what learners know.”

In some cases, Ofsted said there are some students who are not on the right course that is relevant to their previous qualifications. Inspectors said students with SEND are not given a sufficient range of extra-curricular activities and although they are aware of the college’s activities outside of the classroom, too many are not motivated to join extra-curricular clubs or take part in activities.

Teachers do not know enough about the EHC plan outcomes for students with high needs and do not plan or teach an appropriate outcome where learners can achieve their outcomes. Senior leaders and governors have not given staff ‘effective or sufficient training’ and there have been few occasions where staff can take part in a broad range of development opportunities to widen their skills.

Inspectors said not enough training has contributed to a ‘lack of progress’ in improving the educational experience of students. They were also critical of senior leaders and managers not being considerate enough of their staff’s workload and mental well-being.

They said: “Many staff remain highly committed to the college, despite their high workloads. The current interim senior leadership and management team have started to implement strategies to manage staff workload better.” Ofsted has given Newham Sixth Form College eight key areas they must improve on, including improving students’ attendance and punctuality and improving the standard of teaching and learning.

In response to the report published in April 2024, interim principal Susanne Davies said she recognises the challenges and the college is working on a ‘clear plan’ for the future. Ms Davies said: “We accept Ofsted’s overall judgement. I am pleased that Ofsted acknowledge the progress made in the current academic year to get the college back on track. We fully recognise the challenges we face and have a clear plan for the road ahead.”

She added: “NewVIc is proud to be a long-standing and incredibly important resource for our local community and our commitment to delivering our mission of providing the best possible education and training is unwavering.” Following on from the Ofsted report, NewVIc is in talks that could see a merger with Newham College, which has a ‘good’ Ofsted rating and is a top-performing college.

Jayne Dickinson, interim chair of NewVIc said: “As the new Chair of NewVIc, over the past two months I’ve witnessed the enormous potential of NewVIc and the real progress the college is already making in the areas for improvement highlighted in the Ofsted reports. A merger between the two organisations will accelerate this progress and expand opportunities for local young people, ensuring a skills pipeline for our employers. This is an exciting prospect that plays to the strengths of both colleges.”