Ofsted’s new common inspection framework came under the spotlight when providers met for an expert guidance session led by inspector of more than 10 years’ experience Megan Whittaker.

Around 35 representatives from a range of providers, including colleges and subcontractors, were at the conference entitled Preparing for Inspection with the new Common Inspection Framework.

The event, which took place at the Goldsmith Centre, in Letchworth Garden City, Herts, opened with an exploration of the differences between the old inspection framework and its successor.

“The main changes are the emphasis on the quality of teaching, learning and assessment and on how effective the strategies of improvement are,” said Mrs Whittaker, director of Quality for Excellence.

“Teaching, learning and assessment [TLA] have become a limiting grade, with inspectors spending more time reviewing TLA both in traditional classrooms and outside and talking to learners with their work or independent learning providers; and the grade three descriptor is now improvement required.

“There is also strong focus on outcomes relating to progress and progression of different groups of learners; and, a strong focus on destinations into employment and higher level qualifications.”

The new inspection framework was introduced from September following Ofted’s Good Education For All consultation that ended in May.

The framework includes a reduced inspection notice period from three weeks to two days and there will normally be a re-inspection of providers ‘requiring improvement’ within 12 to 18 months and providers with the grade twice in a row can be judged inadequate on their third inspection if they haven’t improved.

Matthew Coffey, national director for learning and skills, said: “Ofsted received hundreds of valuable responses to the Good Education For All consultation enabling us to listen and act on any concerns raised.

“Often learners were more positive about the proposals than many of the providers. In shaping the arrangements for inspection Ofsted has given particular weight to learners as the primary users of the services within the sector.”

And at the Letchworth session on the new CIF, which took place on Monday, October 29, Mrs Whittaker, an additional Ofsted inspector since 2000, warned providers to have systems in place to cope with the new framework’s shorter notice period.

“The main problem I expect to see with the new framework is the short notice period of inspection,” she said.

“Therefore providers need to ensure their improvement planning processes are continually updated as part of the quality assurance process.

“The inspection team coming in will be looking for where you are now, where you were and where you are heading.

“Tracking systems monitoring learners’ progress should be kept updated because a judgment will be made in outcomes asking ‘are learners on track to succeed?’

“Providers should also be keeping current information relating to learner numbers, location of learners, types of provision, for example apprenticeships, community learning, details of contractors, subcontractors and employers.

“Having all this information and keeping it up to date sounds a simple and obvious thing, but it can be something some providers struggle with.

The main problem I expect to see with the new framework is the short notice period of inspection”

“Another thing to consider is that in relation to workplace learning, there’s a requirement to put forward a programme of visits for the inspection team to make a judgment on teaching, learning and assessment, so there needs to be a well-kept weekly diary knowing where assessors will be covering what type of activity.

“Two further issues are that firstly stakeholders such as employers and governors will be involved in an inspection and will need to be included in preparations, and secondly, performance management processes will need to be kept updated  at all levels. For example, monitoring of progress against action plans following lesson observation, impact of continuing professional development sessions on teaching practice.”

The event, funded by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) through Keits Training Services, was hailed a success by Mrs Whittaker and organiser Anna Morrison, manager of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Provider Network.

“The main issues raised by providers in the session related to making judgments around teaching learning and assessment both as an organisational process and as an evidence base to make overall judgments for self-assessment,” said Mrs Whittaker.

She urged all providers to read Ofsted’s How Colleges Improve, from September this year, and also Ofsted’s Ensuring Quality in Apprenticeships, which came out last month [October 2012].

“The providers processes ranged in levels of robustness and improvement planning linked to performance management in some were underdeveloped.

“The session had been designed to provide example material to illustrate good practice and many providers identified this as one of the most useful parts of the session.”

Miss Morrison said: “I think the event went really well.

“All participants left with an action plan of activities they need in place to help them to prepare for the dreaded ‘Thursday morning phone call’ and feedback has been extremely positive.

“Megan, our trainer, did a fantastic job in breaking down all of the different evidence requirements into manageable sized activities.”

Ofsted additional inspector Megan Whittaker’s top five tips for preparing for inspection

1. Self-assessment processes are integral to the organisation and need to include all key processes and areas of work. It should be evidence-based, involve all staff and bring about improvement. Course team management of improvement requires timely information and a good understanding by staff of management information and data.

2. Evaluation of the effectiveness and quality of teaching and learning should be clear, accurate and robust — including any subcontracted provision — and enable swift and sustainable improvements. Review processes to improve teaching, learning and assessment by evaluating and using the views and experiences of learners and employers consistently in planning and delivering teaching, assessment and the curriculum. Be thorough and systematic in sharing and learning from good practice, use information learning technologies (ILT) and their virtual learning environments (VLE) effectively; and make sure learners are on the right course, at the right level, with the right support.

3. Evidence of performance management must be clear and demonstrate impact. Manage underperforming staff effectively by making sure that the college’s performance management systems, including those for measuring competency, capability, or both, are fit for purpose, up-to-date and that all staff are fully trained in these aspects.

4. Record and analyse the progression and destinations of learners systematically in order to measure outcomes and improve the curriculum further.

5.Ensure that good continuing professional development is contributing to the development of an ‘open classroom culture’ and that a wide variety of strategies are being used to develop support and improve practice such as ‘learning walks’ supported experiments, peer observation, coaching, etc.