The new common inspection framework handbooks have been published. Phil Hatton takes a closer look at what FE should be taking note of.

So, with all the hype associated with the launch of the new CIF covering all Ofsted inspection remits, what will be the difference for FE?

Looking at the wording that should guide inspector judgements, very little in terms of what is looked at has changed.

Safeguarding and the emphasis on the Prevent strategy had already been introduced on some inspections prior to becoming a requirement on July 1, as had the GCSE resit emphasis on English and maths.

The biggest change in methodology will be the move away from grading individual sector subject areas, to a grade for each type of provision, such as 16 to 19 study programmes, adult learning programmes, apprenticeships, traineeships, provision for high-needs learners (a new term for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities) and full-time provision for 14 to 16-year-olds.

Such judgement grades are already given at the back of current reports in the form of a grid table, so these are in reality being given more prominence as a separate report section.

Work-related learning, including external work experience, is a key part and needs to be ‘purposeful’

These judgement grades for each type of provision will incorporate (as they do now) outcomes for learners, the quality of teaching, learning and assessment and the effectiveness of leadership and management, but with an additional judgement around the personal development, behaviour and welfare of learners (PDBW will be a new acronym soon).

Although it sounds ‘different’, some of the judgements required for the latter category have been in previous inspection frameworks. It will include taking pride in their work and becoming self-confident and assured.

Work-related learning, including external work experience, is a key part and needs to be ‘purposeful’.

Next comes development of personal, social and employability skills, including English, maths and ICT skills. This will be the real grade judgement deal breaker, especially where a college is in an area where English and maths has low school pass rates so GCSEs must be retaken (and I know I bang on about it, but the national averages in schools are just too low).

Then comes some slightly sloppy wording around ‘achieving their core learning aims, specific units of their main vocational qualifications and relevant additional qualifications that enhance their learning, along with standards of work’ (taken from what is traditionally outcomes and probably better placed there if judgements are to be clear on inspection and in self-assessment).

New, but with prominence by the Further Education Funding Council 20 years ago, is ‘learners’ use of the information they receive on the full range of relevant career pathways’ (again, as colleges have been very good at this the relevance to me is ‘are schools to be judged as stringently as colleges no doubt will be?’).

Very prominent in inspection will be how well learners know how to protect themselves from the risks associated with radicalisation, extremism, forms of abuse, grooming and bullying, including through the use of the internet (I would encourage all colleges to really rethink their approach to educating learners around safe use of the internet, it became a ‘hot topic’ for particular inspectors over the last few months, featuring heavily in some reports).

A new slant, taken from schools, is how programmes allow all learners to explore personal, social and ethical issues and take part in life in wider society and in Britain. And yes, ‘Every Child Matters’ has resurfaced just as many have been dropping it with ‘how well learners know how to keep themselves fit and healthy, both physically and emotionally’.

PDBW will also include attendance and punctually, including participation in any distance learning activities (online learning and the use of virtual learning environments gaining prominence and again will need to be more explicitly addressed in self-assessment reporting).

Perhaps the most school orientated of all are ‘compliance with any guidelines for behaviour and conduct’. The single most frequent comment I get from younger college learners is how they respect their teachers because they treat them like adults. Hopefully colleges will score highly here.