Ofsted inspectors have said Wiltshire College requires improvement after an inspection.
The inspectors’ report criticises the college’s teaching, student success rates, apprentice success rates and management.
It comes with the college still without a permanent principal after it was announced Di Dale would not be at college for the last two weeks of the Easter term and vice principal Amanda Burnside was to be acting principal.
Mrs Dale, who is paid £147,000 a year, has not returned after the Easter holiday and is understood to be in negotiations with college governors over a severance deal.
Staff were also told by Mrs Burnside last week that vice principal Andrew Clare, who has responsibility for finance, has left immediately to “pursue other opportunities”.
She wrote in an email to staff: “He has requested to leave as soon as possible and after careful consideration we have agreed the end of April. Taking into account remaining leave, Andrew will not be returning to the college at all this term.”
The college will appoint an interim vice principal to cover Mr Clare's role.
The management upheaval comes as the college is overseeing a £21 million building project at its Chippenham campus and a partnership with a new University Technical College in Salisbury, as well as tackling the recommendations of the Ofsted report.
Mrs Burnside said today in relation to the report: “Whilst we are not satisfied with this result, the grade was in line with our own judgement of our position and Ofsted acknowledges this as one of our strengths.
“The report commends the college's 'open and honest self-assessment, leading to the accurate identification of areas for improvement.' We do have an excellent understanding of what we need to do to improve and a clear plan on how to achieve those improvements quickly.“
The Ofsted inspection was carried out in March and is the third successive time the college has been rated a grade three.
Under previous inspection rules a grade three meant satisfactory but new guidelines have ruled it as requiring improvement across every inspection criteria except its English provision, which was ruled a grade four inadequate.
The inspection report said the college requires improvement because: “Students’ success rates remain below average and the rate of increase has not been fast enough, particularly for success rates for adults and at level 3.
“Apprentices’ success rates have declined over three years and are below average.
“Teaching teams are not consistently working well together to ensure students’ learning is good.
“Support to promote students’ learning and achievement across all the provision is not focused sufficiently on maximising individuals’ full potential.
“Many improvement actions are new, with insufficient evidence of impact on improving the quality of provision. Differences in the quality of provision between the main campuses remain.
“Managers’ use of targets and sharply-focused actions to raise achievement and improve the quality of teaching, learning and assessment is underdeveloped.
“Teaching of English is not good enough to ensure students develop their English skills adequately and achieve their qualifications.”
The college was praised for: “Good collaborative work with stakeholders which ensures that the curriculum meets the local needs at the four main campuses.
“Good promotion of students’ employability skills.
“Safe and welcoming campuses.
“A wide range of extra-curricular activities that benefit students’ personal and social development.
“Good support for vulnerable students and those with additional learning needs.
“Rigorous self-assessment leading to the accurate identification of areas for improvement.”
The report said students’ success rates are high in agriculture, environmental conservation, transportation operations and maintenance, hairdressing and beauty therapy, hospitality and catering and visual arts.
But they are below average in most other subjects and low in childcare, science, information and communication technology, sports studies, media and business administration.
It said this was because teaching, learning and assessment require improvement It said this was due to a lack of stability in a number of teaching teams due to staff turnover and some inadequate cover arrangements.
It said teaching teams are now relatively stable, the majority of lessons contain some good features and the improved support is reflected in current students’ higher retention rates.
But it added: “Most teachers are well qualified with relevant industrial experience; however, their expectations of what students can achieve are not always high enough.
“The majority of students enjoy lessons, particularly now that previous staffing issues are being resolved.
“They usually work harmoniously together; however, too often teachers allow some low-level disruption and poor punctuality to go unchecked and do not insist often enough on high standards and a professional approach.
“Too many lessons are undemanding and uninspiring, particularly theory lessons. As a result, students lack concentration and do not always grasp important learning points.”
“Teachers do not consistently structure lessons well enough to ensure that individuals, particularly more-able students, make good progress.
“For example, students often undertake the same type and level of work regardless of their ability.”
The inspectors had particular criticism for engineering apprenticeships, whose average success rates declined between 2010/11 and 2012/13.
The report said: “Apprentices’ progress towards completing their qualifications within the allocated time is improving, but is not yet good; only just over two thirds complete within this period.
“Teachers and assessors do not stretch or challenge apprentices sufficiently in order to ensure they make good progress.
“Assessors make too little use of information from initial assessment and current performance to set apprentices appropriately challenging targets.
“Targets set largely relate to completion of tasks and rarely include targets for the development of learning and thinking skills.”
There was also strong criticism of English teaching.
The report said: “Teaching, learning and assessment are inadequate which is reflected in students’ below average success rates on functional skills qualifications in English at level 1 and level 2.
“However, students’ success rates on these qualifications at entry level are above average, as are success rates on GCSE English, including for grades A* to C where adults make up the largest part of the cohort. In the current year, enrolments on the GCSE English course have increased markedly, particularly for younger students.
“These students are not making adequate progress towards their qualification because the teaching team is not adapting quickly enough to meeting their needs and supporting their progress.
“Teachers do not have high enough expectations of students, particularly the more able. Lessons often have a slow pace with insufficiently stimulating activities to maintain students’ interest.
“Teachers make very few links to relevant vocational contexts and too many students do not improve their skills or acquire new knowledge adequately.
“Teachers do not consistently use initial assessment information to meet students’ learning needs. In particular, teachers do not focus enough on developing students’ writing skills.
“Teachers’ skills in managing mixed-ability lessons are underdeveloped. Teachers often rely on whole group activities and do not check individual students’ learning regularly.
“Too often this results in students becoming disruptive or not working on the tasks set and leaving the class early.”
The report criticised the college management for not acting quickly enough to improve teaching.
It said: “Managers’ actions to improve the quality of teaching and learning have had mixed success and many much-needed actions are recent and not yet fully effective.
“Managers’ judgements about the quality of lessons are over optimistic. The lesson observation scheme has been revised, but inspectors found that the grades awarded for lessons by internal observers did not consistently match inspectors’ grades.
“The evaluation of the quality of learning in observation records is insufficiently precise to pinpoint what teachers need to do to improve. In a few cases, prompt action has not taken place where teaching requires improvement.”
Helen Birchenough, who became chairman of governors last July, said: “Wiltshire College launched a new five year strategic plan in September 2013 which places learners at the heart of everything it does and I am confident that we have the plan, resources and passion in place to now deliver the required improvements for our learners.“