While colleges may have upped their game in recent months as far as Ofsted is concerned, the FE sector still has significant concerns about the inspectorate.
One of the main worries among colleges is that they are not judged on an equal basis with schools. A key issue for many principals is that they believe schools’ post-16 provision should be evaluated in its own right, rather than simply as part of Ofsted’s overall verdict. The Sixth Form Colleges’ Association (SFCA) in particular has campaigned for schools to be given a grade just for their sixth form provision, in order to help parents and students compare neighbouring institutions for the quality of their post-16 education.
TES has learned that the SFCA’s wish could be about to come true. An Ofsted spokeswoman confirmed that it is considering introducing a separate sixth form grade, and plans to hold a public consultation on the matter next year.
“Inspectors already evaluate and report on the quality of school sixth forms as part of their inspection findings as we recognise the importance they play in helping young people progress onto employment, further and higher education," the spokeswoman said. "The effectiveness of post-16 provision informs the wider judgements given to a school.
“Ofsted is planning to consult on the introduction of a separate sixth form grade in 2014.”
Not surprisingly, the news was welcomed by SFCA deputy chief executive James Kewin. “Having a separate grade for school sixth forms will allow parents to made an informed decision when they compare schools and colleges," he said. "We have lobbied Ofsted to take this step, and we are very pleased they have listened.”