Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Raised Up by Gove but Dressed Down by Ofsted: Fe News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Raised Up by Gove but Dressed Down by Ofsted: Fe News

Article excerpt

Lauded as a 'model', Barnfield College drops to 'satisfactory'.

It has been praised repeatedly by education secretary Michael Gove as a "model" that others should follow and as a rival to private education. But Barnfield College's outstanding rating has been stripped from it by Ofsted, which has now rated the college at grade 3.

The decision comes just two months after Mr Gove endorsed the college's proposal to run its own independent schools, telling The Sunday Times: "I think Pete (Birkett, the principal) would not just give some independent schools a run for their money, he would out-compete them."

In November, Mr Gove visited the college and its federation of academies, spending three hours observing lessons and meeting students. "What Barnfield has shown students is that you can do better and you can go further," he said. "What Pete Birkett has done is truly amazing - he has created an education model that others should follow. I am here to learn from him."

But now inspectors have highlighted a decline in success rates for young people on long courses, taking them below the national average. In other respects, such as teaching and learning, they said the college's performance was satisfactory, although they added that staff failed to challenge students sufficiently to reach their potential.

While Ofsted praised the college's "ambitious vision" as the centre of a federated network of schools, it said leadership and management were only satisfactory overall. "It is only in the current year that actions to strengthen and improve performance at the college are beginning to have a positive impact on reversing the decline in younger learners' success rates and on apprenticeships," inspectors said. "The college's judgements of its own performance are overgenerous."

Mr Birkett said that the college had addressed problems with success rates in some areas last year and that he expects results to have improved this summer. "We are a 'no excuse' organisation and this outcome does not represent the college's performance as a whole," he said. "It is correct that there were areas of activity in the last academic year that required attention. This was fixed in this academic year and I'm sure will be reflected in this year's outcomes that will be known in three weeks' time. …

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