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Exclusive: Ofsted has ‘agreement in principle’ that more resources needed to deal with inspections

The Department for Education agrees Ofsted needs extra resources to inspect the growing number of apprenticeship training providers, the inspectorate's deputy director for FE says

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The Department for Education agrees Ofsted needs extra resources to inspect the growing number of apprenticeship training providers, the inspectorate's deputy director for FE says

Ofsted’s deputy director for further education and skills, Paul Joyce, has said he is confident the inspectorate will have sufficient resource to carry out the extra caseload of inspecting apprenticeship training providers.

Figures from the inspectorate show there are 161 FE and skills providers that have not had an overall effectiveness judgement yet and, of these, 113 are independent learning providers. All of them started to attract funding between August and December last year and will need to be inspected within three years, according to Ofsted rules.

Speaking exclusively to TesMr Joyce said: “We talk to the [DfE] very regularly about our resourcing. We have agreement in principle that we will have more providers to inspect and therefore we will need more resources to do so.

“I’m confident that with the resources that we currently have I plan, manage and utilise them effectively, so I send them to where we most need to send them and I’m confident that we will have the resources we need to inspect the providers in the future.”

'Complicated picture'

Although hundreds of independent learning providers are listed on the new register of apprenticeship training providers and could, therefore, be in line for an Ofsted inspection, Mr Joyce pointed out that inspectors will not visit all these providers. “The fact that they come on to a register doesn’t automatically mean that they will need inspecting. They may not draw funds to deliver provision, so it’s a complicated picture.”

He added: “I think we are in for an increase in the number of providers between now and the immediate future.”

Ofsted wrote to providers earlier this month, announcing that it is to carry out a number of monitoring visits of new providers. Mr Joyce told Tes this pilot phase would be conducted during the spring and summer terms.

Monitoring visits

“I can’t give you a definitive, ‘We’re going to do 10, 20 or 50.’ It depends what we find,” he said. The visits are a means to assess the state of provision, explained Mr Joyce. “Initially what we’re doing is running a bit of a risk assessment to find out if [the training providers] have any history – as, say, a subcontractor or as a provider – that we have inspected previously but in a different guise. As well as that we will be looking at these providers across the board to get a fairly even sample of what this new provision does look like,” he added.

“It will not be a full inspection. The idea of a monitoring visit is to take an early look at these providers to make sure the systems and processes that they should have in place and that they ought to have in place – ie, the foundations or the building blocks to ensure good quality provision follows – that’s what inspectors will be looking for on these visits.”

Quality of provision

Mr Joyce added: “If we find a provider doesn’t have in place what they should have in place at this moment in time they may end up with a series of 'insufficient progress' judgements. Depending on what inspectors find that may mean that we bring their inspection forward so in the worst-case scenario, if inspectors were really really concerned about what they found on a monitoring visit, we could convert that monitoring visit into an inspection and we could find that provider to be 'inadequate' and it is for the funding agency to take whatever action they wish to take.”

Overall findings from the pilot will then inform the inspectorate's next steps, said Mr Joyce. “If, for example, we find that a lot of new providers are struggling to implement requirements or there are issues that we find on these monitoring visits that lead us to worry about the future quality of provision, it’s likely that I’ll be recommending to the chief inspector that we continue doing these monitoring visits as a means of aiding improvements to those providers and to the sector."

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