Inspectors find learning at independent college in Wigan based on 'random activities'

Fir Tree Fishery CICFir Tree Fishery CIC
Fir Tree Fishery CIC | jpimedia
Lessons at an independent college are based on what students want to learn, rather than what will benefit them and help them to succeed.

That was the view of education inspectors from Ofsted who carried out a monitoring visit at Fir Tree Fishery CIC, which teaches people aged 16 to 25 with learning difficulties and/or disabilities

The centre in Appley Bridge runs programmes consisting of English and maths, vocational studies, the development of personal and social skills, and skills for work. There are currently 27 students enrolled.

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Ofsted found the college had made “insufficient progress” in the three areas considered - how much progress had been made by leaders in designing and delivering relevant learning programmes to suit the individual needs of learners, to ensure students benefit from programmes that develop their skills and help them achieve their goals, and in ensuring that effective safeguarding arrangements are in place.

The inspectors said managers had “not developed a coherent, well-designed curriculum that meets the needs and interests of learners”.

Learning focused “too much on random activities” and the curriculum was based on a framework with “no identified, relevant qualifications for those who can achieve them”.

In her report, lead inspector Suzanne Wainwright wrote: “Learning activities are not planned logically or coherently. Most learners only want to do practical activities. Managers and teachers fit learning around what learners want to do and not what will benefit them and help them to succeed. For example, for one pathway, the first week related to building a shed, the next was around radicalisation and the following week about food hygiene. As a result, tutors do not build on learners’ previous knowledge, skills and behaviours to help them to learn relevant new skills over time that will help them to gain meaningful employment or independence.”

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Managers did not know which students had achieved maths and English qualifications and they did not target funding for high-needs learners specifically enough to support them.

Learning programmes were not “sufficiently ambitious or individualised”, staff did not use students’ starting points to tailor their learning and tutors did not plan sessions around their needs or record what they achieved effectively.

Links with employers were “very limited” and most students said they did not receive careers information and guidance appropriate to their needs.

Risk assessments were “not sufficiently rigorous” to show students were always safe around hazards and leaders could not quickly or easily locate relevant risk assessments for specific activities.

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Ofsted found all staff received disclosure and barring service checks, but they were not always in place when they started work.

Staff received safeguarding and Prevent duty training, but leaders relied too much on trust that this was delivered to students. Ofsted said students did “not gain a sufficient understanding of British values and the risks associated with radical and extremist views”.

The Wigan Post has attempted to contact Fir Tree Fishery CIC.

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