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College row over Ofsted inspection

Senior staff at a major college threw Ofsted inspectors off the site during an official assessment and later claimed there had been "troubling incidents".

Staff clashed with inspectors who were assessing the NCG organisation which runs Newcastle College on Tyneside, Skelmersdale College in Lancashire and the Intraining company in Sheffield.

The row broke out during the inspection in May and June, but the assessment was only completed last week after Ofsted was allowed back to conclude its findings.

Newcastle College will now officially challenge its rating, which will see it downgraded from outstanding to good when it is officially released next month.

It was reported that after the inspection, Ofsted staff were offered counselling, although a spokeswoman for the education watchdog could not confirm the claim.

In a memo leaked to the Newcastle-based Journal newspaper, NCG chief executive Dame Jackie Fisher emailed staff to tell them: "Unfortunately the inspection came to an untimely end as a result of some troubling incidents. However, we finally agreed to allow the inspectors to return and the on-site inspection of NCG has now been concluded."

The message continued: "Many of you are aware that the Ofsted inspection was not entirely trouble-free. We are planning to pursue with Ofsted some outstanding matters which may improve the grade profile. However, based on Ofsted's track record in listening to provider complaints, this must be viewed as unlikely, regardless of how strong our case is."

Newcastle College is the largest in the North East with more than 25,000 students, and it includes among its alumni TV stars Ant and Dec and X Factor winner Joe McElderry.

In 2008 it received a Grade One "Outstanding in all areas" Ofsted inspection and it has topped national league tables produced by the Department for Education for 16 to 18 achievement for three consecutive years.

An Ofsted spokeswoman said: "While Ofsted does not comment on individual complaints, we do take complaints very seriously, investigating each one rigorously and dealing with issues as quickly as possible."

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