A new inspection regime for government-funded training providers will be launched next April and developed by training and enterprise council chiefs.
The TEC national council beat off a bid by the Office for Standards in Education to devise the scheme and has now got approval from David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education and Employment, to continue the development and carry out the first tranche of inspections next year.
Mr Blunkett has told the TECs: "Inspection needs to be independent if public confidence is to be guaranteed. For this reason my invitation to the TEC National Council is dependent on there being a direct reporting line from the inspectorate to myself."
A training standards council, originally due to be called a quality council, will be established with an independent chair and representatives from the private sector, as well as stakeholders - the TUC and the Confederation of British Industry. There will be observers from the Further Education Funding Council, OFSTED and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.
The council will have teams of full-time and part-time inspectors and they will scrutinise the work of an estimated 4,000 training providers. The Government is building on work begun by its predecessor, which published a consultation paper on self-assessment and training last August.
The TECs were keen to play a central role in the inspection of training, in a similar relationship to the one the funding councils have with the colleges. There has also been a desire for convergence, and the inspectors' assessments are similar to those of the FEFC, ranging from a grade 1 for "outstanding provision which has many strengths and few weaknesses" to a grade 5 - "poor provision which has few strengths and many weaknesses".
External inspection will assess whether providers' self-assessments of their own training provision are rigorous and accurate. The council will publish reports and make known good practice as a means of raising standards.
The inspectors will chiefly be concerned with checking the quality of the learning experience of the individual and with changing the emphasis from systems audit. They will visit the premises where the training is taking place, talk to the trainees and observe the effectiveness of their training.
Inspection reports will assess seven aspects of provision: training and assessment; trainees' achievements; trainee support; management of training; resources; equal opportunities; and quality assurance.
Following publication of the report, each training provider will be required to provide a written response outlining plans for addressing any weaknesses identified. The TECs will assist the inspectorate by monitoring any follow-up action.
The inspectorate, in collaboration with the TEC national council, will maintain a database which will record the location of all government-funded training, plus the outcomes of self-assessments and inspections.