‘Ofsted must set out its role vs FE commissioner’

Ofsted will launch its new inspection framework at the Sixth Form Colleges Association Winter Conference tomorrow

Ofsted, led by Amanda Spielman, needs to set out what its role is in the FE and skills accountability system in the context of the growing remit of the FE commisioner, Richard Atkins, according to the inspectorate

With the growing role and influence of the FE commissioner, and the dawn on the college insolvency regime, Ofsted needs to be clear about its role in the accountability system in its new inspection framework, its deputy director for FE and skills, Paul Joyce, has said.

The inspectorate is set to launch its new inspection framework, alongside an updated FE and skills handbook, at the Sixth Form Colleges Association Winter Conference in London tomorrow.

Speaking to the Association of Colleges' Eastern Governors' Conference last week, Mr Joyce said that providers were “broadly happy” with the current inspection and accountability framework, but updates were needed to reflect changes in the FE landscape since the last framework was introduced in September 2015 – including in terms of accountability.

 

He added: “The landscape has changed in FE, you as governors will know that. Apprenticeship reforms, planned reforms to T levels and technical and vocational education, funding challenges; there’s an awful lot that has happened since the last framework introduction and we need to refresh our framework to make sure it remains valid.

“It’s going to change because, in our view, while we fully accept accountability is important, we feel that the current system, particularly with the introduction of the FE commissioner in FE and skills [Richard Atkins, pictured alongside Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman], and with the onset of an insolvency regime and other changes, that what Ofsted needs to do is to be very clear and set out what we do as part of that accountability system, and what we do needs to be different and needs to complement the accountability system.”

Ofsted will focus less on exam results

Ofsted will place less of a focus on information gleaned from exam results, Mr Joyce said, partly because other bodies are focusing on data.

Mr Joyce said: “We feel that over time there has been too much emphasis placed on qualification achievement rates and data, and data drives the accountability system – particularly in terms of DfE, ESFA and FE commissioner activity. What we want to do is make sure we complement that. So whilst we are never going to ignore data, we’re going to take a different view of data and we feel that there’s too much emphasis in the current system placed on data and performance measures and not enough on the real substance of education.”

He added: “It is a more subjective framework and it does allow inspectors to make professional judgements more, rather than be guided too much by performance measures and data that other agencies will use. So it gives some more freedom and flexibility but it won’t change the importance of a good governing body served by a good clerk to provide support and challenge to the college and the senior leadership team. But [with] that support – and particularly that challenge – you need to think about that differently and you need to think about it through a quality of education, quality of curriculum lens rather than a lens that says, ‘Do they achieve high qualification achievement rates?.'"

Mr Joyce also told the governors at the conference that when considering their curriculum, colleges need to “recruit with integrity” and not just think about “bums on seats”.

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