Rotherham College group classes as "requiring improvement" after "significant decline"

ROTHERHAM College’s parent company — which also runs University Centre Rotherham — has been criticised by Ofsted for a “significant decline” in standards.

ROTHERHAM College’s parent company — which also runs University Centre Rotherham — has been criticised for a “significant decline” in standards.

Ofsted rated the RNN Group, which also manages Dearne Valley College, as “requires improvement” and highlighted several areas for concern including leadership, apprentices’ results and a lack of consistency in teaching across its campuses.

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RNN Group’s interim principal Jason Austin said improvements had been made in the past six months but admitted more needed to be done.

The group, which has 15,000 learners on its Rotherham courses and those at North Notts College, runs apprenticeships through its RNN Training division and took over responsibility for community learning from Rotherham Borough Council in 2017.

Ofsted inspector Rachel Angus said RNN needed to improve in six of eight areas following a four-day visit in March.

The critical assessment comes after Thomas Rotherham College was given the same disappointing rating in January last year — meaning all of the borough’s post-16 colleges have been told to improve following recent academy conversions or mergers. TRC has since had a monitoring visit which said it was making reasonable progress.

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Ms Angus said: “Senior leaders and governors have presided over a period of significant decline in the quality of education and training following the two mergers.

“Quality assurance arrangements have been ineffective in maintaining a high quality of education and training across the group.

“The quality of teaching, learning and assessment on study programmes varies too much by site, subject and level, and is not good enough.”

RNN Group’s proportion of apprentices achieving their qualifications was too low, said Ms Angus.

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But she assessed adult learning programmes — transferred from RMBC in 2017 following the local authority’s own critical Ofsted report — and provision for learners with high needs as “good”.

RNN Group was formed following a merger between Rotherham College and North Notts College in 2016 and a further merger with Dearne Valley College a year later.

The group has not been inspected before but its subcontracted provision — which involves 12 operators— received a monitoring visit in February 2018 which criticised management.

Ms Angus said weaknesses in the quality of education and training across the group were being tackled.

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She said: “The large majority of students and apprentices develop good practical and work-related skills. 

“Adult students greatly increase their knowledge and understanding, which supports them in their lives and careers.”

Inspectors found managers were developing positive relationships with apprentices’ employers, which were having a good impact.

Mr Austin said he was pleased Ofsted recognised the improvements over the last six months and RNN’s work with partners to develop its curriculum and prepare learners for employment.

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But he added: “We equally acknowledge that further improvements need to be made in key areas and both governors and the leadership team are determined and focused on achieving excellent provision across the group.”

Gordon Watson, RMBC deputy leader, said although the post-16 education outlook in Rotherham was “not great” he was confident TRC and RNN were moving in the right direction.

He agreed learners were not currently getting the best service, adding: “All we can do is hope present management do what the report says they’re capable of doing, which is turn it around.”

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