County council told to ‘get a grip’ on inadequate adult education

Sue Mullins
Sue Mullins

Labour councillors have called on West Sussex County Council to “get a grip” on the governance of the county’s adult education.

The call came after the services provided by Aspire Sussex Ltd, which manages adult education on behalf of the council, were rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted.

Councillor Richard Burrett, West Sussex County Council's cabinet member for education and skills.

Councillor Richard Burrett, West Sussex County Council's cabinet member for education and skills.

A team of inspectors, led by Janet Rodgers, found the effectiveness of leadership and management to be ‘inadequate’ and the governance from the county council to be ‘weak’.

Ms Rodgers’ report, published in December, said arrangements for safeguarding learners were not effective, and leaders had not carried out the appropriate checks on tutors or venues to ensure learners were safe.

The report added county council managers did not adequately manage and monitor the provision.

Councillor Chris Oxlade (Lab, Bewbush and Ifield) said: “I hold West Sussex County Council responsible for this outcome, not the staff at Aspire Sussex Ltd.

“Ofsted have stated that governance by West Sussex County Council is weak and they have failed to ensure the small number of 16–18-year-old learners are on a suitable programme of study, and have not monitored their achievements.”

Mr Oxlade said Labour councillors had previously questioned how outsourcing would enable the council to provide services efficiently.

He added: “This is yet another example of a failure to monitor services for our residents.”

Leader of the Labour Group, Councillor Sue Mullins (Lab, Gossops Green and Ifield East), said: “I want the cabinet member for education and skills, Richard Burrett, to assure me that he will get a grip on the governance of this service provision and ensure learners are adequately safeguarded.

“I call on him to explain how he intends to do so.”

Mr Burrett pointed out Ofsted had rated the service ‘good’ in three areas – quality of teaching, learning and assessment; personal development, behaviour and welfare; and outcomes for learners.

Ms Rodgers’ report recognised Aspire’s new leadership team had already taken “decisive action” to improve many aspects of teaching and support.

She described teaching and learning as “good” and added: “Tutors have high expectations of learners and challenge them to achieve their goals.”

Mr Burrett added: “The county council and Aspire have already addressed the areas identified as needing improvement, and actions have already been taken to ensure that the arrangements for safeguarding learners and how we manage and monitor the service are improved.”

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