Short shrift for new-look Ofsted reports

Short shrift for new-look Ofsted reports

Joy Mercer, AoC                    Jan Webber, ASCL

Reports of inspections under the new common inspection framework (CIF) are to become shorter, Ofsted has said.

The move will disappoint many in FE who see the reports as a valuable source of information on where colleges and providers are performing — and where they are failing.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) have both told of their concerns about the move.

However, an Ofsted spokesperson defended the change, saying the revamped reports would be more “user-friendly,” containing bullet points rather than lengthy pieces of text.

Nevertheless, AoC director of education policy Joy Mercer said: “Some of what we’ve heard about the new reports from inspections is concerning.

We understand that reports are going to be much shorter.

“Colleges do respect Ofsted and look to it — it has such a mass of information, so it’s a pity inspection reports have become shorter and shorter since the early 1990s.

“It seems they’re missing a trick given what Ofsted thinks is so important to colleges.

Colleges and providers that have been inspected want to know what Ofsted thinks of them, but also want to know in a detailed way what works elsewhere so they themselves can improve.

“So there needs to be a lot more detail than it is rumoured there will be in the reports that come out from inspections under the new common inspection framework.”

The ASCL said it was important reports were easy to understand, but there was a “danger” that by making them too short useful information would be lost.

Jan Webber, ASCL inspections specialist, said: “Colleges are large and complex institutions and to describe them accurately in a series of bullet points without much detail or clarification will be hugely challenging.”

Ms Webber also had concerns about the tone of Ofsted reports.

“The new school report format is more brusque and starts by listing weaknesses rather than strengths, which immediately puts the institution on the back foot,” she said.

“The effect is to paint a picture that is more negative than it needs to be. Given how important inspection outcomes are
to a college’s reputation, if this is replicated in the CIF reports, it could be a real issue.”

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “The new CIF reports for learning and skills are designed to be clearer and more precise in order to be more user friendly both for learners and the sector.

“They will be shorter because they contain bullet points in place of text.”