A college in Birmingham will decide today whether to continue its fight against the Government’s inspection service after failing in a unique High Court bid to stop a highly critical report being published.
City College Birmingham, which has 25,000 students across nine campuses, unsuccessfully applied to Mr Justice Burton for an injunction to prevent the Ofsted report being made public.
Following its Ofsted inspection in March, the college was told it would be scored as “inadequate” – the second lowest grading available – in two of the six areas to be marked on.
Ofsted also said it would grade some of the subjects taught at the college as “inadequate” as well.
The college, formed in 1998 as a result of the merger of Handsworth and East Birmingham colleges, took High Court action after disputing a number of the findings of the inspection.
It is currently struggling with a financial deficit of around £1.5 million, and has been given a Notice to Improve by the Learning and Skills Council to bring its budget under control or face possible merger or closure.
Interim principal David Gibson said: “I think the college will continue its complaint because we feel Ofsted did not follow its own procedures.
“It changed the grading for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), which represents about 25 per cent of our students, from inadequate to satisfactory.
The college argued at last Friday’s High Court hearing that after the mark for ESOL was changed, the grade awarded for “overall effectiveness” should have risen to satisfactory too.
Mr Gibson added: “The judge thought the circumstances of the case was not exceptional for our injunction to be granted. But the Ofsted report, which will probably be published tomorrow, has a great deal of positives, including good teaching and good leadership and management.”
Mr Justice Burton, in deciding that the report could be published, said Ofsted had “bent over backwards” to answer the complaints of the college.
The college, which was given an “inadequate” grading for overall effectiveness of provisions, and achievement and standards, may now decide to seek a judicial review challenge.
John McKendrick, for City College, which was hit by strike action last month over the planned loss of 76 jobs, told the hearing that 82 per cent of its teaching provision was graded as satisfactory or better.
He added that the consequences of the report being published would be grave for the college, both financially and in terms of reputation, and was likely to lead to increasing difficulty in recruiting staff and students.
But Paul Greaterox, for Ofsted, accused the college of trying to “suppress” the publication of the report which, he said, was “a very extreme position to take”.
He told the judge an injunction could only be granted for the “most compelling reasons”.
Mr Greaterox also pointed out to the judge that the college had spent public money on coming to court, and the cash would have been far better spent making improvements.
Mr Gibson, who took over as interim principal at the college in 2007, said he was not in a position to say how much the High Court injunction had cost. College governors were meeting today to decide their next course of action.