· We have made a lot of progress in our first two years of operation, with much to be proud of, despite significant challenges in our environment.
· We consider the Ofsted process and provisional grade to be flawed. The grade is inconsistent with other external assurance we have received. We are addressing all the points that Ofsted has raised, building on improvements we already had in hand, to ensure that we deliver high quality provision.
· The Ofsted grade also had serious implications for our ability to continue to operate. As a last resort, we took legal action in the interest of our learners and industry, and our creditors.
· We have also faced a number of financial challenges from factors outside of our control. Recent delays to the HS2 project have seriously affected our number of learners. We have taken action to address these challenges, including broadening the scope of our provision beyond high speed rail, and delivering cost savings.
· We are working with the FE Commissioner and others to ensure a long-term sustainable future for our provision, without disruption to our current learners. This has allowed us to drop the legal action.
· The recent announcement on HS2 and the Government’s plans for further infrastructure investment means that the skills delivered by the College are needed more than ever.
The National College for Advanced Transport and Infrastructure (NCATI) was established by the government as an industry-led institution (originally as the new National College for High Speed Rail), to serve the needs of the transport and infrastructure sector with higher level courses and apprenticeships.
Since opening its doors in 2017, the College has come a long way in the short time it has been operating, and we are proud of our learners’ achievements and our high levels of engagement with employers in the sector. Our achievements to date include awards for our provision, a recognised quality standard (Bronze) from NSAR (National Skills Academy for Rail) and an independent review of safeguarding providing assurance of progress made to date. This has been achieved despite significant challenges in our environment.
We are disappointed that our achievements and progress have not been fully recognised by the recent Ofsted Inspection, and the grade given has serious implications for our ability to continue to serve our learners and industry. As we believed the Ofsted process and overall grade to be flawed, with serious implications for our ability to operate, we took financial advice and consequently pursued legal action upon the advice of senior counsel, in the interest of our learners and industry, and our creditors.
Even before the Ofsted inspection we recognised that as a young institution we needed to continue to improve, and we had a quality improvement plan in place. This covered many of the areas commented on by Ofsted subsequently. Following the Ofsted inspection we immediately enhanced our existing action plan to focus further on relevant aspects of the learner environment, experience and outcomes. We have taken positive, proactive steps which include the implementation of a new Quality Assurance Programme; an expanded learner experience team, which includes the appointment of assessors who visit the workplace and assess and log on the job training to ensure consistency; as well as the implementation of universal 1:1 training for all our own staff in antibullying and safeguarding procedures.
From its early days the College has faced financial challenges from a number of widely recognised factors outside of our control; delays to HS2, the costs of running two campuses, our status as a start-up college, the timing of the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, and the aspiration to bring in a new level of technical training that does not exist elsewhere.
We have taken action to address these challenges, including broadening the scope of our provision and delivering cost savings. We proactively invited the FE Commissioner and the DfE to work with us to provide some financial stability whilst we work with them to consider future structural options that can provide more certainty to the continuity of learner provision and long-term financial stability. We have very much welcomed this support, which has enabled the Board to review its decision to pursue a Judicial Review. The College has now stopped the legal action, although we still challenge the Ofsted assessment.
The recent decision by the Prime Minister to approve the go-ahead of the HS2 programme is also both timely and encouraging, as it reinforces the continued need for the skills that NCATI provides. As such, we continue to be focused on our current provision and engagement with employers and stakeholders to improve learner outcomes, whilst addressing the issues identified in the Ofsted report. We are also committed to working in partnership with the FE Commissioner on sustainable future options through a Structure, Prospects and Appraisal (SPA) process to secure the best outcomes for learners and apprentices studying at the NCATI.