Ofsted calls time on privatised inspection regime for FE and schools

Ofsted inspections of FE and skills providers and schools will no longer be carried out by private contractors from September 2015.

The education watchdog said it would not be renewing contracts with inspection service providers (ISPs), which are set to expire in August next year.

The current contracts, with CfBT, Serco and Tribal, have run since September 2009.

Ofsted said additional inspectors (AIs), who are currently contracted through ISPs for inspections on behalf of Ofsted, would continue to form a “significant part of the inspection work force”.

From September next year, AIs will be contracted directly by Ofsted, giving it more direct control over their selection, training and quality assurance, it claimed.

The move follows, FE Week understands, concerns that inspectors have not been following Ofsted guidance, such as being told not to grade individual lesson observations.

Joy Mercer, director of policy at the Association of Colleges (AoC), said: “We welcome the decision to end the outsourcing of inspection… and take the responsibility in-house. We hope that this will lead to consistency across inspections.”

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) supported Ofsted having “more direct control over the selection, training and quality assurance of inspectors and inspection teams”.

Learning improvement consultant Phil Hatton (pictured), who was an Ofsted inspector from 1998 until January last year, told FE Week: “Hopefully the changes will lead to more consistency with inspections and improved training of inspectors.”

But a spokesperson for the Association of Employment and Learning Providers said while it had received regular complaints until 2013 about inconsistencies with inspections of independent learning providers, it had received “far fewer” in the last 12 months.

He raised concern about losing “the experience and knowledge of the inspectors that work through the external organisations”.

Ofsted declined to comment on the consistency of its current inspection regime.

But its director of corporate services Nick Jackson said: “For the last five years our ISPs have delivered a successful and professional inspection programme for Ofsted.

“With the conclusion of these contracts the time was right to look again at how Ofsted can best deliver a service that is efficient and flexible.”

Ofsted’s existing contractual arrangements for the delivery of early years’ inspections will continue.