The overall performance of general further education colleges improved in 2017-18, according to Ofsted’s annual report – but funding pressures are affecting the sector's performance, according to the inspectorate.
This morning, Amanda Spielman will present her second Ofsted annual report as chief inspector in Westminster. Here are the main findings from the 2017-18 report.
- More than three-quarters of general FE colleges (76 per cent) were rated "good" or "outstanding" in their most recent inspection – a “big improvement from last year”, Ms Spielman writes. In 2016-17, the proportion stood at just 69 per cent, down from 71 per cent the previous year.
- The report warns that “there is potential for a dilution in the quality of apprenticeships. A statement issued the document identifies “common issues around poor governance, low-quality teaching and not enough off-the-job training". Ofsted is also concerned about “access to apprenticeships for students who leave school without a full level 2 qualification".
- Ms Spielman also once more highlights concerns about the impact of low levels of FE funding. Per-student spending in FE and sixth-form colleges “is now 11 per cent lower than for pupils at secondary school", the report states, adding: “We are concerned about the financial sustainability of the college sector and the clear impact that real-terms cuts to FE funding can have on provision.” Of the 18 colleges that improved their overall grade to "good", 15 were “thinking strategically about financial planning, their governance is robust and spending is focused on improving quality”.
- Post-16 English and maths are highlighted as areas requiring improvement. Although the report says some colleges are providing “good, discrete” programmes, it argues that an “alternative and sometimes more successful strategy is to improve English and mathematics within the context of further technical and vocational study post-GCSE”. The report adds that “we continue to be worried about the effectiveness of the government’s policy to require learners who have not achieved a grade 4 in English and/or mathematics to continue studying for a qualification in these subjects. Pass rates are low, at 24 per cent for English and 19 per cent for mathematics, and the impact of repeated ‘failure’ on students should not be underestimated”. Resits, it adds, should not be pitched as a “punishment”; rather, as a “core part of vocational training”.
In September, Tes reported that the proportion of FE colleges rated "good" or "outstanding" in 2017-18 had increased by half compared with the previous year.
Last month, Ofsted's deputy director for FE and skills outlined what its new inspection framework will mean for the FE sector.
How providers fared
Here are the latest figures for how different types of providers fared according to their most recent inspection report (figures are rounded, and institutions which have subsequently merged are not included).
General FE colleges
Requires improvement 24%
Requires improvement 19%
Specialist FE colleges
Requires improvement 0%
Independent specialist colleges
Requires improvement 24%
Independent learning providers
Requires improvement 8%
Community learning and skills providers
Requires improvement 11%