Principal supports no-notice inspections

The principal of a college which underwent the first no-notice inspection in FE has praised the piloted scheme.

Richard Atkins, the principal at Exeter College, believes the proposed style puts less pressure on staff compared to the current three week build up.

However, he believes that “serious consideration” needs to be given to employer responsive provision.

His comments come after Exeter College became the first to be assessed by Ofsted in a pilot of no-notice inspections.

The college said they were graded ‘outstanding’; the best inspection profile of a college so far this academic year.

Meanwhile, inspectors graded teaching and learning as outstanding for the first time in an FE college in the last two years.

The pilot was revealed by the regulator’s national director of learning and skills Matthew Coffey last week in his first comment piece for FE Week.

Mr Atkins told FE Week: “Our staff found the three week build up raises the temperature and makes the college less like a normal college. However, the inspectors saw Exeter College on a normal week. They simply had to take us as they found us.”

He added: “However, there needs to be serious consideration about how they monitor employer responsive provision.

“If it’s two miles down the road, we can make an appointment, but if it’s 100 or 200 miles away, then it needs consideration.”

Having asked to be involved in framework pilots last summer, Mr Atkins was eventually told the inspection could be between March and May. However, he was under strict instructions not to tell college staff.

Mr Atkins said: “Last summer when I knew there was likely to be a new framework, I suggested the college could be used in a pilot – not knowing there could be something coming called no-notice inspections.”

He added: “I received a call at 9.10am saying ‘I’m on the way and I’ll be at the college at 10am’. It was a very rigorous inspection. We were a bit nervous, but we’re delighted with the outcome, particularly for teaching and learning, which has been a bit difficult to achieve over the last couple of years.”

As well as teaching and learning, the college was graded ‘outstanding’ for student outcomes and for leadership and management.

Mr Atkins said: “This is an important national accolade for the staff and students of Exeter and the Heart of Devon and we are very proud the college has been tested under such stringent conditions as the first no-notice inspection in the country.”

A spokesperson for Ofsted said the inspection result would not be formerly published as it took place as part of a pilot.

However, it will be used to inform the consultation process.

Ofsted’s consultation, ‘A good education for all’, will close on May 3.