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Colleges will fail inspection if they don't work with employers, warns Ofsted chief

Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has warned the further education sector that colleges could fail inspection if they are not engaging with employers.

Giving evidence to the education select committee this morning, Sir Michael (pictured) said successful colleges have “really strong” links with local employers and “go out of their way” to help young people gain confidence and motivation.

But, he added: "The worst colleges say 'if you want to do this apprenticeship you have to find an employer'".

The chief inspector warned colleges could fail inspection if they do not engage properly with local employers. 

“We are going to be a lot more critical of the FE sector and colleges in particular if they are not doing that.”

He also said apprenticeships were not going to work unless more employers get involved in the scheme.

Ofsted’s annual report, published in December, showed a general improvement in FE performance, with an increase in the proportion of good or outstanding providers and improvements in teaching, learning and assessment.

However, it also found providers were not doing enough to prepare 16-18-year-olds sufficiently for employment, and that colleges in particular were not doing enough to make sure their vocational courses matched the needs of employers.

It also said that despite having job vacancies, employers were not offering enough apprenticeships for young people under the age of 25.

Earlier in the committee hearing Sir Michael dismissed comments from the University and College Union that Ofsted did not know how to inspect colleges as “a bit of a cheek”.

Lorna Fitzjohn, Ofsted’s national director for FE and skills, said satisfaction rates in FE inspections were around 95 per cent, and that the inspectorate was having an impact in the sector because colleges were improving.

Nevertheless, she said there was a "clear need" for a national structure for FE.

Ms Fitzjohn also expressed concern at the number of young people coming into FE without having achieved GCSE English and maths, and said many are “quite far away” from entering exams.

She said one college she visited recently had 300 students sitting English or maths GCSEs last year but now has 2,000. Some colleges were struggling to recruit the right staff to teach the subjects, she added.

Related stories

Ofsted: training providers outperforming colleges in inspections, figures suggest – November 2014

Colleges to be graded on apprenticeships in Ofsted overhaul – October 2014

Ofsted figures show improvement in FE performance – September 2014

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