While Ofsted's inspectors will focus on monitoring visits of new providers over the coming months, they will also carry out at least some full graded inspections later in the summer term, the director for FE and skills at Ofsted has said.
Speaking to Tes yesterday, Paul Joyce said the inspectorate had been carrying out pilot inspections with a range of providers from across all institution types in FE to assess how many learners had returned to full-time, face-to-face provision, and what provision was taking place.
While adult students in general further education colleges, in particular, were often still doing blended learning, a group of smaller providers, especially those offering a limited number of apprenticeship courses, were commonly delivering much more "normal" provision.
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Mr Joyce said: “We have worked very closely with the main sector bodies in securing pilot providers, sharing different options and evaluating what we can and can’t do. It has been close partnership working and good engagement, and that has informed what we plan to do.
Ofsted focuses on FE monitoring visits
"There is a group of providers where we are about to apply the [education inspection framework, EIF] now and to that group we are looking to go back later in the term first and we are going to do more pilot inspections where it is more challenging or more difficult.”
Those institutions Ofsted most urgently needed to visit were often also smaller in size and closer to being able to operate normally, he explained. “The ones we feel we most need to go to are brand new providers, and the providers where it is easiest to do an inspection is a straightforward apprenticeship provider. There are an awful lot of apprenticeship providers that are relatively small and have provision in one or two areas and that is working relatively normal.”
Mr Joyce added: “It doesn’t change the plans for our activity over the summer. We were always intending to focus on new provider monitoring visits because there are a lot of them that haven’t had a visit and we want to visit them as soon as possible. We are already rattling through those at a rate of knots, and as we get through those, we will divert our attention to EIF inspections to those providers where we know we can inspect because our pilots have demonstrated that is the case."
He stressed that both monitoring visits and inspections would be rated in the usual way: “When we do our monitoring visits, we have reverted back to our normal progress judgements in FE and skills and when we do an EIF inspection this term, it will be a normal inspection and it will be graded."
Colleges and providers would be able to request a deferral if necessary, he said – but they would need a good reason. “We are going to look very carefully at what we schedule and when we schedule it. We are not going to schedule anything we don’t think we can inspect. But as always, if we contact them and they think, ‘No, we want a deferral,’ they can request that through our deferral policy. And as always, that will be decided on a case-by-case basis.”