Colleges are faring better in Ofsted inspections, according to the latest data from the inspectorate.
A total of 270 FE and skills providers were subject to either a short or full inspection after 1 September 2017 and had the report published by 31 May 2018.
Of the 80 GFE, sixth-form and specialist FE colleges inspected, only 3 per cent were found to be "outstanding", while 71 per cent were rated "good". That means nearly three-quarters of colleges were either "good" or "outstanding".
Around a quarter (23 per cent) "required improvement", according to their last Ofsted inspection, and 4 per cent were rated "inadequate".
In the same time period last year, of the 80 colleges inspected, 3 per cent were found to be "outstanding", while 49 per cent were rated "good", meaning that just over half (51 per cent) were either "good" or "outstanding".
Some 43 per cent were found to "require improvement", while 6 per cent were found to be "inadequate".
Independent learning providers
Independent specialist colleges performed similarly to colleges in 2017-18, with 76 per cent "good" or "outstanding", 24 per cent "requiring improvement" and none "inadequate". That compared with 81 per cent "good" or "outstanding", 19 per cent "requiring improvement" and none found to be "inadequate" in that time period in 2016-17.
A total of 84 independent learning providers were inspected after 1 September with reports published by 31 May. Ofsted found 2 per cent to be "outstanding" and 61 per cent to be "good", 26 per cent "requiring improvement" and 11 per cent "inadequate". That again is slightly better than in 2016-17, when 5 per cent of the 99 independent learning providers inspected were found to be "outstanding", just over half (53 per cent) were "good" and 31 per cent "required improvement".
Among community learning and skills providers, 77 per cent were found to be "good" or "outstanding", while 18 per cent were rated "requires improvement" and 5 per cent were found to be "inadequate" by Ofsted this year. This compared with 80 per cent "good" or "outstanding" in 2016-17, when 16 per cent were found to "require improvement" and 4 per cent were judged "inadequate".
Bearing realities in mind
Speaking last month at the Skills and Education Group's annual conference, Ofsted's deputy director for FE and skills, Paul Joyce, said it was important for inspectors to bear in mind the realities in which the FE and skills sector is operating.
“At Ofsted, both I and our inspection teams are very aware of the operating conditions within the FE and skills sector at the moment and the many challenges that you, as providers, face,” he said. “We know that the sector isn’t in the best financial health and we know some providers are really struggling and have had to make some difficult decisions in terms of curriculum offer and for staffing.”
He added the challenges for the FE sector were not purely financial. “There are many different policy initiatives and many changes that you are having to cope with as providers. Again, we recognise that and we acknowledge that.”
Flexibility and responsiveness
David Corke, director of policy at the Association of Colleges, said: “It is great to see that so many colleges have been ranked 'good' or 'outstanding'. Colleges are outstanding representatives of the excellent work happening across the country. They provide high-quality technical and professional education and training for young people, adults and employers despite the fact colleges are on the front-line of under-investment – they are critical to delivering the solutions.”
Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: "It doesn’t matter if they have new off-the-job training rules or subcontracting rules thrown at them or dramatic reductions in income and cashflow from falling numbers, because independent training providers will always demonstrate the flexibility and responsiveness needed to deliver high-quality provision.
"AELP has worked hard with Ofsted to ensure that providers are clear about what’s expected from them and when it starts to consult, we look forward to discussing with the inspectorate a common inspection framework that recognises more fully the demands of working with employers."