FE inspection: Ofsted answers your questions

Ofsted's deputy director for FE and skills responds to your queries

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I Invited readers to ask questions about how Ofsted inspects further education and skills providers. I received some interesting questions and I’m grateful to those who took the time to submit them.

The more that we can enter into such discussions, the more that we can dispel myths about inspection, while championing the excellent practice that inspectors see.

Before I turn to questions, I’d like to give a quick inspection update. I’m delighted to report that Truro and Penwith College has become the first general FE college to be judged “outstanding” under the new common inspection framework. It is also the first college where the 16-19 study programmes have been judged “outstanding” as well.

On top of this, Herefordshire Group Training Association is the first apprenticeship provider judged to be outstanding after a new short inspection. We agree that there is some way to go to raise standards across the sector, but the good work that we have seen is an example of what can be achieved.

So let’s turn to questions. One that caught my eye concerned Ofsted’s expectations of governors and clerks.

All of us involved with the sector are grateful to governors for their voluntary and unstinting public service, but “Ofsted’s expectations” should never be their driving force. A governor’s role should be to ensure, with effective oversight of leadership, that learners and apprentices get the best possible education and training.

On inspection, we will always meet with governors to discuss a range of matters, but tailored to the specific issues raised by the lead inspector. Topics are likely to include: future strategy, including the provider’s financial position if this is a concern; learners’ achievements; the quality of teaching; and, of course, safeguarding, including the Prevent duty.

Clerks are usually welcome to attend our meetings with governors. We expect clerking arrangements to provide governors with timely, accurate and useful information to help them to discharge their duties effectively. The FE Commissioner considered the contribution clerks can make in his report for 2014-15.

Inspecting SEND provision

I received another question asking what Ofsted looks for when inspecting provision for those with specific learning difficulties and/or disabilities. Readers may want to read Moving Forward?, our recently published report on high-needs learners.

For such learners, inspectors are most interested in how well their programme is preparing them for their next steps, whether it’s employment, further training, and their capacity to lead more independent and fulfilling lives.

The focus is on the progress that learners make and inspectors will be curious to know how well their needs are assessed from the start of their programme. Additionally, inspectors will be keen to see that learners are receiving high-quality work experience or work-related activities.

It’s always good to clarify what Ofsted does and doesn’t look for, and this is likely to remain just as important as the government moves forward with the proposals in its recent White Paper, which includes changes to how we’ll inspect.

While much attention has inevitably focused on schools, changes will impact on FE too, particularly in terms of how we judge teaching, learning and assessment. Although no final decisions have been made, we’re working closely with ministers on this important matter and Ofsted will consult on any changes.

It’s important that we’re all on the same page for raising standards and input from the sector will be invaluable in informing how we achieve this.

Paul Joyce is Ofsted’s deputy director for FE and skills. If you have any questions for Ofsted, send them to @tesfenews on Twitter using the hashtag #AskOfsted or email stephen.exley@tesglobal.com

This is an article from the 15 April edition of TES. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To subscribe, click here.

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