What the new Ofsted inspection framework will look like in FE

Consultation on the proposed new framework will begin in January, according to Ofsted's Paul Joyce

ofsted colleges FE skills providers inspectors

The introduction of a new Ofsted inspection framework is less than a year away, but until now very little was known about what the new framework would entail for the college sector in particular. Today, speaking at the Association of Colleges' annual conference, Paul Joyce, deputy director for FE and skills, shared some of the sector-specific changes that could be around the corner for colleges.

  • We already knew that the “outstanding” grade is here to stay, and that the overall effectiveness judgement will remain a feature of the framework.
  • From what has previously announced for the school sector, it was also already known that the new Education Inspection Framework will place greater emphasis on the substance of education and discourage the collection of data.
  • However, Mr Joyce stressed inspectors would “absolutely will not be ignoring” performance data and accountability measures.
  • There will be a single new judgement, “quality of education”, replacing the current “outcomes for learners” and “teaching, learning and assessment” judgements.
  • Quality of education will be central. Mr Joyce said: “If quality of education is inadequate, it is highly likely overall effectiveness is going to be inadequate.”
  • The focus will be on the curriculum – on its “intent”, or the aim of the study programme, the implementation, how that is delivered, and the “impact”, where data will be considered
  • The affordability of the new system to the FE sector is something Ofsted is mindful of, said Mr Joyce, particularly with regard to factors such as workload for staff and enrichment activities. The inspectorate will need to get an idea of where to benchmark some of this, he said, and context such as insufficient funding was “clearly something we need to be aware of”.
  • There will be no campus-level inspections. “We are not going to introduce campus-level inspections and we will not grade campuses in the new framework,” explained Mr Joyce. However, “we may well report on campuses, but we won’t be inspecting”.
  • There will be a reduction in the number of provision types that are graded. This means there will no longer be a separate grade for provision for high-needs students, for example. Instead, inspectors will be mandated to inspect that provision, even if a college provides for only a very small number of those students.This will then feed into a relevant section elsewhere, rather than receiving a separate grade.
  • The framework will be flexible enough to account for the wide range of provision in FE, Mr Joyce stressed
  • Consultation on the new framework will begin on 19 January, the day the new handbook for FE will be published. There will also be extensive piloting of the proposals. “Things change as a result of pilots,” said Mr Joyce.
  • The changes are not set in stone yet, with Mr Joyce stressing that the inspectorate is “in listening mode”.

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