North Hertfordshire College given requires improvement rating by Ofsted

North Herts College , which has campuses in Hitchin (pictured), Stevenage and Letchworth, has been g

North Herts College , which has campuses in Hitchin (pictured), Stevenage and Letchworth, has been given a requires improvement rating by Ofsted. - Credit: Archant

A college which received a damning Ofsted report a year after its new principal promised to transform it into an ‘outstanding’ institution is still confident in its future.

Matt Hamnett, chief executive and principal of North Herts College, said the inspection had been 'ca

Matt Hamnett, chief executive and principal of North Herts College, said the inspection had been 'cathartic' and would allow the college to look forward instead of back. - Credit: Archant

North Herts College, which has sites in Hitchin, Stevenage and Letchworth, has been downgraded from ‘good’ to ‘requiring improvement’ following an inspection in June.

This time last year newly-appointed principal Matt Hamnett told the Comet: “This is a fantastic learning institution. We are going to be an outstanding college.”

After Mr Hamnett was appointed in March 2015 he was immediately caught up in an investigation into the manipulation of success rates submitted to the government’s Skills Funding Agency between 2008 and 2014, which artificially boosted it from 51st to 11th place in national success rate tables.

Mr Hamnett told the Comet at the time: “We are all about looking to the future. This has had a galvanising effect on the whole team, meaning we are going to reach our goal of being an exceptional college far quicker.”

The NHC website says its aim is to be graded an ‘outstanding’ college by 2018/19.

But despite these promises, the college has dropped from Grade 2 to 3 in the latest Ofsted findings, which cited concerns about attendance, assignments, homework and teaching.

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In their comments, inspectors said: “Not enough teachers set high expectations of their learners. They place too much emphasis on learners completing their qualifications to the minimum standard. Although improving, attendance is low in the majority of subjects, and very low in English and mathematics.

“The majority of teachers do not set challenging homework nor provide sufficient written feedback on learners’ work that enables them to understand how they can improve.”

Inspectors did praise the college’s leadership and management, as well as it apprenticeships, internships and provision for autistic learners, but these ratings were outweighed by the areas which required improvement.

Speaking to the Comet this week, Mr Hamnett said the inspection had been ‘cathartic’, as it not only marked the end of a period of challenging change, but allowed them to look forward instead of focusing on the past.

“We started 18 months ago in a very difficult spot,” he said.

“We have made a large amount of progress. There is more we need to do, but we know where we need to go, and I am confident that we have the right team to get us there.

“We now have a clear and very ambitious strategy, and we’re not talking about the past any more – we have a plan and we’re getting on with it.”

In direct response to the report, he added: “Ofsted’s judgement is fair. And their visit was genuinely helpful to the work we are doing to transform our institution.

“We have correctly identified our areas for improvement and have action in hand to address them for the benefit of our students.

“Ofsted specifically recognised our rigorous, self-critical, quality assurance and performance management processes.

“They also noted the investment we have made in training and development for our staff – and the early impact we have seen from that investment.

“We are proud of the progress we have made and are confident that the work we are doing will enable us to continue improving as we look to 2016/17 and beyond.”