Early Ofsted inspection requests to come at price
Inspectors could allow colleges that want to fast-track improvements to their Ofsted grade to request an early inspection - if they are prepared to pay a fee.
The new inspection framework, now out for consultation until 24 November, includes proposals to allow students, parents, employers or governors to request inspections if performance is declining, though it will still be up to Ofsted to decide whether and when to inspect.
Colleges and training providers would also be able to request inspections themselves, with Ofsted citing the example of a college rated "good" which believes it is worthy of an "outstanding" grade, but does not want to wait years for the inspection cycle to come around.
The framework will also implement plans for outstanding providers to avoid inspection altogether for as long as they maintain their quality of provision. Providers that have been rated "good" will continue to be inspected only once every six years.
Where colleges and training providers are repeatedly judged "satisfactory", or where a decline has been identified at a satisfactory provider, then Ofsted will make an unannounced monitoring visit.
This could trigger a full inspection if there is a lack of progress at FE providers thought to be "stuck" at "satisfactory".
Ofsted's chief inspector Miriam Rosen said: "Our current inspection framework has been in place since September 2009 and feedback from providers has been positive.
"Our proposals today build on this experience and will give inspectors the chance to take an even closer look at the elements that have the biggest impact on improving standards for learners and increasing their job prospects.
"We want inspectors to spend an even greater proportion of their time observing lessons and training sessions. We propose to develop an even stronger focus on how well staff teach and how well learners progress and achieve results."
The framework will also mark the end of a separate grade for "capacity to improve", which is now regarded as implicit in the leadership grade.
Outcomes for learners will be rated with a single grade, instead of publishing up to seven contributory grades, and inspectors will focus on progression to higher-level courses and sustainable employment, as well as closing the "achievement gap" between different groups of learners, such as males and females, and different social and ethnic groups.
Ofsted also promises a greater amount of direct lesson observation in forming its judgments. A single grade for teaching, learning and assessment will be published, abolishing the contributory grades.
Safeguarding will no longer be a "limiting grade" and will instead be considered part of leadership and management, which will also have a strong focus on equality and diversity.
With increasing freedom for providers to set their own curriculum, Ofsted will be reporting on how well the range of provision meets the needs of its community.