Ofsted denies 'unfair' focus on English and maths in FE inspections

24th June 2016 at 12:58
ofsted english maths unfair
Paul Joyce, deputy director for FE and skills at the inspectorate, acknowledges the difficulties posed by the increase in GCSE English and maths resits

Ofsted has hit back at claims by providers that its inspectors have been focusing too narrowly on English and maths.

Earlier this month, TES reported concerns raised by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) that providers were being “unfairly” penalised by Ofsted. AELP chief executive Mark Dawe said that such treatment could result in some providers reducing their involvement in the traineeship programme. Concerns have also been raised by colleges, with 10 being given overall inadequate ratings so far in the current academic year.

But, in an exclusive interview with TES, Paul Joyce, Ofsted’s deputy director for FE and skills, said he was keen to “bust what seems to be myth of the month at the moment”.

“Whilst I’d be the first to agree there’s an increased emphasis on English and maths in inspections, particularly for study programmes, I would absolutely want people to be assured that inspections are not making inadequate or requires improvement judgements absolutely and solely on the basis of English and maths provision,” he said.

“Certainly in the cases of the inadequate colleges, the English and maths issue has been one of a significant number of failures in those institutions around things like leadership and management, governance, strategies for teaching and learning, and assessment. So certainly not solely English and maths

“I’d absolutely agree that where those providers have struggled with other things, English and maths has been within the mix. But it is absolutely not the sole determining factor.”

'Providers have been successful in enrolling people'

Mr Joyce also praised the work being done by colleges to cope with the dramatic rise in GCSE English and maths resits, after TES revealed that the overall number of entries in colleges this summer topped 235,000, up 40 per cent from last year.

“I’ve been quite impressed with some of the logistics and planning that goes into that,” he said. “It’s a huge undertaking, and it’s a challenge that [colleges] seem to be coping with.”

But Mr Joyce also acknowledged the difficulties faced by colleges in helping learners to achieve the A*-C benchmark. “Inspectors are not going to make judgements solely on the proportion of students that achieve A*-C grades,” he said. “Inspectors are absolutely aware of the difficulties providers face in terms of increasing numbers that have a grade D, and the need for them to work towards GCSE.

“I think, by and large, providers have been successful in enrolling people and engaging them. I think they have been less successful in getting them to move from a D to a C, but that’s one measure for us as inspectors. The other important evidence is looking at the quality of learning and development for those English and maths skills. We’ll give credit to that where we see it.”

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