Ofsted reveals FE research reference group

Inspectorate vows to work with further education researchers following criticism over its lack of engagement

Stephen Exley

Ofsted has responded to criticism over its lack of engagement with FE research

Ofsted has acknowledged the importance of FE research, and created an “FE and skills research reference group” of leading academics in the field.

The move comes after the inspectorate faced criticism for not including any FE-specific references in its research summary published alongside its new inspection framework, which it claimed was due to the “relative paucity” of research in the sector.

At the launch of the response to the consultation on the framework, chief inspector Amanda Spielman said the “limited” amount of research on the further education sector was “depressing and disappointing”. 

FE research: 'Ofsted's evidence base must include FE'

Read more: New website launches to promote FE research

Background: Greening the desert of FE research is proving tricky

Reviewing the FE evidence base

In response, Matt O’Leary, professor of education at Birmingham City University, told Tes that Ofsted’s research summary was “disdainfully and patronisingly dismissive of FE and skills research”.

But a blog by Daniel Muijs, Ofsted's deputy director for research and evaluation, and HMIs Rebecca Clare and Chris Jones, due to be published this morning, acknowledges that “the FE and skills (FES) community justifiably pointed out that we hadn’t reviewed the FES-specific evidence base”. 

“So,” it continues, “over the past months, we have been reviewing some of the themes and debates in research in the FES sector.”

The blog touches on several key areas, such as a report by professors Lorna Unwin and Alan Felstead on whether education and training should focus primarily on a particular employer’s needs, or instead prepare a learner or apprentice for a career in the field in general.

It also cites work by professors Bill Lucas, Guy Claxton and colleagues at the Centre for Real-World Learning on the importance of workplace learning that may be non-linear, informal and tacit.

The Ofsted blog adds: “Our review of research is ongoing and far from complete, and we have only been able to give a brief and partial overview here. Further blogs are planned, together with a systematic literature review in due course.”

Ofsted's FE research reference group

The report also reveals the names of Ofsted’s FES research reference group, which the inspectorate has been engaging with.

The group includes:

  • Professor Liz Atkins (University of Derby) 
  • Professor James Avis (University of Huddersfield) 
  • Professor Ann-Marie Bathmaker (University of Birmingham)
  • Professor Margaret Gregson (University of Sunderland)
  • Professor Jim Hordern (Bath Spa University)
  • Professor Bill Lucas (University of Winchester)
  • Dr Lawrence Nixon (University of Sunderland) 
  • Professor Kevin Orr (University of Huddersfield) 
  • Dr Patricia Spedding (University of Sunderland)
  • Dr Jonathan Tummons (Durham University) 
  • Professor Leesa Wheelahan (University of Toronto)
  • Professor Chris Winch (King’s College, London)

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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