Covid: Delay in return to Ofsted inspections welcomed

Not returning to full inspections until the summer term was a 'common-sense decision', college leaders said

Julia Belgutay

Colleges have welcomed the decision by Ofsted to delay a return to full inspections

The college sector has welcomed the decision to postpone a return to full, graded Ofsted inspections to the summer.

The government announced today that the inspectorate will not resume graded inspections until the summer term. In the interim, the government said Ofsted would conduct "supportive monitoring inspections" to those colleges currently judged “inadequate” and some that “require improvement”. These inspections, the Department for Education said, would focus on important issues such as curriculum, remote education and pupil attendance, particularly of vulnerable children.

Ofsted will also continue to have the power to inspect a further education provider if they have serious concerns, including about safeguarding and remote education.

Ofsted annual report: What it says about colleges

More: Ofsted 'not anticipating' graded inspections in January

Background: First college rated 'outstanding' in new Ofsted framework

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “I am pleased to see the common-sense decision that full Ofsted inspections will not commence until the summer term – they would be impossible to carry out fairly and safely in these conditions – but I would urge the DfE not to continue barring colleges with legacy ‘requires improvement’ grades from being able to deliver T Levels, Institutes of Technology and other programmes where they have good sustained progress on quality.”

Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said it was “right” that graded Ofsted inspections will not resume next term. “Today’s formal confirmation provides colleges with some much-needed certainty,” he said.

Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief policy officer Simon Ashworth said: “The longer the tier restrictions go on, we can understand why this decision has been taken because the restrictions limit inspectors seeing apprentices being trained in the workplace as part of Ofsted’s triangulation of gathered evidence. But we would prefer the matter to be kept under review as there are providers who are keen to have the opportunity to get or improve a grade to gain greater access to public funding which they can only get by being graded or by improving an existing one.”

Speaking to Tes yesterday, Paul Joyce, deputy director for further education and skills at Ofsted, said: “We want to go back to the education inspection framework (EIF) as soon as possible because that is the right thing to do and the best thing to do. When we go back we will always follow public health guidance.

“The difficulty will be how we apply EIF when we go back. A lot of further education provision is about work-based learning and we know that is a challenge for some providers right now.”

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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