15th July 2016 at 00:00
A cooling Ofsted period?

Does Ofsted really get FE? This debate has long raged, but rarely in such a heated manner as in recent months.

The main reason for this is one Sir Michael Wilshaw (pictured, right). Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector has never been quick to lavish praise on FE. Indeed, the tone for his tenure was set in his first year in office, when he accused the sector of focusing on vocational courses of “little real value” and insisted that it needed “reorientating towards a moral determination to provide high-quality and relevant provision”.

The rancour escalated in March, when the bolshy bruiser told MPs that the sector was “in a mess” and the best place for 16-19 learning was in a school, not a college. Leave it out, Mike.

Last week, the issue bubbled to the surface again, when the Commons Education Select Committee rejected Amanda Spielman, education secretary Nicky Morgan’s preferred candidate to replace Sir Michael, and singled out FE as one of the areas they weren’t convinced she had an adequate grasp of.

It seems that Ofsted is now fighting back against claims that it doesn’t understand or appreciate FE. It recently announced that a couple of familiar faces with a firm grasp of the sector had been appointed to its board.

The first new recruit is John Cridland, who picked up a thing or two about training and skills during his time at the helm of the CBI. The other? Step forward, former Association of Colleges president Richard Atkins, who retired from Exeter College earlier this year and has a wealth of experience in FE and skills.

With a salary of £8,282 for 20 days’ work a year, that sounds like a tidy little retirement job. FErret sends his congratulations to both, and hopes that they will ensure – whether or not Ms Spielman’s appointment is pushed through – that there’s plenty of banging the drum for FE and skills inside Ofsted Towers.

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