Back in charge of adult inspectorate
The last major post to be filled in the new bodies created by the Learning and Skills Act sees Mr Sherlock, as chief inspector, reunited with Nick Reilly, his former chair at the TSC, who is to take on the same role in the new inspectorate. Their double appointment represents a huge vote of confidence in the TSC, which will have inspected about three-quarters of work-based training and two thirds of New Deal schemes by the time it is wound up next April.
Its second annual report last month found marked regional and occupational variations in work-based training. Mr Sherlock said there is a huge job to do, as provision ranges from "absolutely superb" to "terrible". The fact that 85 per cent of poor provision had improved vindicated TSC's methods. "We know inspection drives up standards," he said.
The inspectorate will have a wider role than the TSC, checking standards for over-19s in colleges, as well as work-based training, adult education and the University for Industry. It will conduct more than 1,000 inspections a year compared with the TSC's 650. Around 10 per cent of them will be joint college inspections with the Office for Standards in Education.
Mr Sherlock said preparations for the common inspetion framework were going well and it would focus on "big questions like 'how good is this?'" rather than "box ticking".
He hinted at innovative approaches to standards including the possibility of online inspections for the UfI, due to come under scrutiny in the inspectorate's first year. "Ministers would not want to see it without some sort of quality assurance for too long but we wouldn't want to do anything in an unseemly hurry - pulling up the plants to see if they are growing," he said.
The inspectorate's 70 employees - twice as many as the TSC - will be based at new headquarters in Coventry. The decision to relocate from the TSC's current site in Oxford, criticised by Mr Sherlock, means key staff will almost certainly be lost.
But he was more upbeat about the potential of the new Learning and Skills Act, which received Royal Assent last week, to "shift the emphasis decisively from trying to buy learning provision at the lowest cost to trying to buy the highest quality".
Mr Sherlock, 56, a former senior inspector with the Further Education Funding Council and principal of Central St Martin's College of Art in London, described the job ahead as a "very exciting challenge". A keen mountain biker, he said it would be neither an uphill struggle nor an easy downhill run. "Given the right machinery it's a breeze in either direction," he said.