Ofsted is shortly due to start a series of interim visits to colleges and providers to look at provision this academic year in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The inspectorate has repeatedly stressed these will not be inspections and institutions will not be graded – but in some cases, a visit may lead to an inspection.
Today, Ofsted’s deputy director for further education and skills Paul Joyce told the Association of Employment and Learning Providers’ Business Recovery Conference just what these visits will – and will not – entail.
Paul Joyce said while inspectors would be carrying out interim visits from this month under the inspectorate's inspection powers, "they will not be inspections". "Our idea is that these will support the sector".
"These really are discussions, constructive conversations and what it is like on the ground. What is working and what are you struggling with – that is what this is all about," he added.
How many of these visits would be made depended on when routine inspections could resume – and the inspectorate is keeping that under review during the autumn term, said Mr Joyce.
Ofsted will also carry out additional new provider monitoring visit with providers judged to be making insufficient progress, and those who would have been due their full inspection up to or during this interim phase from September 2020 but have not received it. If sufficient progress has been made, providers will be able to start learners on apprenticeship programmes on the back of these visits, said Mr Joyce. That means they do not have to wait for full inspections to restart.
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Three themes to visits
He added visits will focus on all providers with “inadequate” or “requires improvement” inspection grades and on providers where risks or concerns have been identified. Ofsted will also visit a sample of “good” and “outstanding” providers and newly merged colleges, visits will usually involve two inspectors for up to two days.
Mr Joyce said there are three questions the visits will be based around:
- What actions are leaders taking to ensure that they provide an appropriate curriculum that responds to the reasonable needs of learners and adapts to changed circumstances?
- What steps are leaders taking to ensure that the approaches used for building knowledge and skills are appropriate to meet the needs of learners?
- How are leaders ensuring that learners are safe and well informed about potential risks, including from online sources?
After the visit, a "short written report" will be published by Ofsted to “give some measure to government and provide a body of examples and practice”, Mr Joyce said.
Ofsted confirmed that on the visits, it will not:
- Evaluate measures put in place at point of lockdown or during lockdown or judge providers on their response to Covid-19 during the spring and summer terms of 2020.
- Use the EIF and further education and skills inspection handbook to make any graded or progress judgements.
- Look for evidence of the impact of actions since September.
- Carry out lesson, workplace observations or deep dives.
- Expect leaders to prepare for anything beyond what is part of the normal business of the provider.
- Ask providers for documents or records in a certain format.
- Require staff to prepare any additional work.
- Review self-assessment, quality improvement plans, points of improvement from previous inspections or visits or achievement data.
Ofsted says it will:
- Have a series of “professional conversations” with leaders and, where appropriate, staff and learners.
- Endeavour to work on-site at the provider’s premises wherever possible, although it might be necessary to carry out some meetings, discussions or aspects of the visit remotely.
- “Observe social distancing and take account of any remote or online education taking place”.
Ofsted may ask for:
- Current learner numbers by learner type.
- The programmes and courses run.
- Information about the institution’s organisation with staff names and responsibilities.
- Information on subcontracting arrangements.
- Locations where meetings will take place.
- Contact details for employers and learners agreed during the planning call.