Wigan college ‘must do better’ after a visit from education watchdogs

A specialist Wigan further education college has launched an “extensive” improvement plan after coming under fire from watchdogs.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 9:49 am
Updated Thursday, 21st October 2021, 9:50 am

Changes will be made at My Life Learning in Standish following its first monitoring visit by Ofsted found “insufficient progress” was being made in three areas considered.

Particular concerns were raised about safeguarding, with the inspectors highlighting the lack of measures to prevent learners leaving the site or other people entering.

It was the first visit by Ofsted since charity My Life opened the centre for learners aged 16 to 25 with a range of special educational needs and/or disabilities.

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Chief executive Caroline Tomlinson

Lead inspector Suzanne Wainwright wrote: “Inspectors identified a number of safeguarding concerns during the visit. Public footpaths run adjacent to the site. Current fences would not prevent a learner from leaving the site or unauthorised visitors gaining access. Chalets that are sometimes used for crisis accommodation for external service users are on the same site, as is an equestrian centre, veterinary practice and café.

“These facilities are open to the general public with no secure demarcation between them and the provider.

“Leaders and governors have introduced some measures to protect learners, such as security gates at the front entrance and closed-circuit television cameras across the site. Leaders showed inspectors their plans to further improve site security. However, they have not yet started to implement them.”

However, she did find that learners felt safe and records of disclosures and concerns about their safety were “comprehensive”.

As well as safeguarding, Ofsted looked at the learning programmes and considered whether they were tailored to suit the individual needs of learners and helped them to develop independence, communication and skills, as well as their goals.

They found the curriculum focused on different subjects with isolated activities that did not link together and that leaders did not link qualifications to learners’ ambitions.

Ofsted said they had “not developed an ambitious, well-structured and coherent curriculum”.

The report said leaders did not evaluate the quality of the curriculum effectively enough to find its strengths and weakneses. However, they had recently found problems with the standard of teaching and “poorly performing tutors” had left, with specialist staff employed to support learners’ speech, language and communication needs.

Tutors attended training to support learners’ diagnsoses, but they did not apply the training in their teaching to better support individual learners and their needs.

Ofsted found governors did not have enough relevant experience of post-16 education and did not challenge leaders about important aspects of the curriculum.

The careers guidance strategy did not include specific actions for post-16 learners.

My Life now has an improvement plan to respond to the concerns raised by Ofsted, a new curriculum has been launched and there will be additions to the governing body.

Chief executive Caroline Tomlinson said: “We set up My Life Learning from scratch a few years ago because Wigan Council asked us to provide a specialist further education college. We, too, wanted to ensure every individual is supported to achieve their full potential.

“It’s been a challenging but hugely rewarding journey and the feedback we receive from students, parents and carers is overwhelmingly positive. We have given people and families hope for the future.

“The recommendations that Ofsted have made are all sensible and achievable and with the full support of our parents and carers, our improvement plan is already underway.

“We look forward to welcoming Ofsted back for the full inspection in the new year.”

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