Ofsted pledges to improve FE subcontractor oversight

FE providers do not always 'exert enough influence' to manage subcontracted provision well, says inspectorate

Kate Parker

Ofsted has pledged to improve its oversight of FE subcontractors

Ofsted has pledged to make its oversight of subcontractors in FE more comprehensive and transparent. 

In a report published today, Subcontracting in further education and skills, Ofsted admits that the current approach to inspection means that some subcontractors are visited more than once, while others are not visited at all.

Ofsted is not funded to directly inspect subcontractors but instead gives a judgement on the directly-funded provider. However, the new report says that directly-funded providers do not always “exert enough influence” to manage subcontracted provision well. 


News: Ofsted to visit FE providers from 28 September

More: ESFA cracks down on subcontracting activity

Need to know: What will Ofsted's interim visits actually look like?


In June, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) announced a crackdown on subcontracting in FE and said it would take active steps to reduce subcontracting activity over the next three years.

Ofsted focus on FE subcontractors

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman said that the ESFA’s tighter regulations make Ofsted's own report “important and timely”. 

"Over the past two years, we have increased our focus on the management of subcontracted provision," she said. "However, this new research has highlighted the importance of reviewing subcontractors within our current model.

“We are open to exploring how we could directly inspect subcontractors in the future, but that would need significantly more financial resource and better data. So, for now, we will continue to inspect subcontractors as part of our inspections of directly-funded providers. But I’m confident that the changes set out in today’s report will make our oversight more meaningful and transparent.”

Ofsted said it will take four steps to make inspection and reporting on subcontracted provision more comprehensive and transparent. They are:

  1. Working with the Education and Skills Funding Agency  to improve access to timely and accurate data on subcontractors.
  2. Increasing awareness among inspectors of Ofsted’s available inspection resource, in order to investigate more subcontractors.
  3. Changing the way evidence is recorded to systematically and consistently include information about all subcontractors visited.
  4. Where appropriate, highlighting more subcontractors in inspection reports.

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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