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We can organise our own affairs without Ofsted

Ofsted should step out of the classroom and let colleges and training providers take over the inspections role themselves, ministers have been told.

A report on how the FE system could run more of its own affairs, produced in response to a challenge from the former education secretary Alan Johnson, said the inspectorate should in future focus on checking the right systems and processes were in place, rather than observing classes. Bill Rammell, the further and higher education minister, welcomed the report, which proposes a new body called the Single Voice to represent all parts of the FE system in establishing a self-regulation regime.

In a letter to the report's authors, he said: "Self-regulation is a fundamental element in shaping the FE system of the future.

"We expect it to provide even greater benefits for learners, employers and communities as well as to benefit individual institutions."

The proposal was presented by former Knowsley College principal Sir George Sweeney and Park Lane College principal John Taylor, who led the self- regulation group responsible for the report. It says that once the trials have been properly evaluated, a new system-wide FE body would consider a national peer review and development system which should first be incorporated into inspections, and eventually take over.

Ofsted would instead "focus on the effectiveness of the self-regulation at a system level".

Sir George said: "Let's be clear. Self-regulation is our tool for tackling and, where necessary, uprooting poor provision in skills delivery.

"It is our device for confirming that eligibility for public funding is not a long-service medal, but a privilege earned through the gritty business of peer review, performance appraisal and the self-discipline of daily accountability.

"The promise before us is of more purposeful in-trays, fewer nagging demands for the same information you provided to the suits concerned only last week."

Melanie Hunt, director of learning and skills at Ofsted, said that even if inspections continued, these could be limited to a random sample of colleges.

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