Ofsted claims ‘huge number’ of £2.4m set-aside for research projects will be FE-related

Ofsted will soon call on FE providers to help it undertake a “huge” amount of FE-related research projects, according to its director of corporate strategy.

The education watchdog has set aside around £2.4 million, or 4 per cent of its inspector resource, to spend on 20 studies over the next two years.

It is part of Amanda Spielman’s drive for a more evidence-based inspection regime after Ofsted went years without basing judgements on research, under the leadership of former chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw.

We would be doing a disservice if we weren’t making sure that our inspections were based on latest evidence

But of the 20 upcoming projects (see table below), not a single one has been dedicated solely to FE and skills.

Despite this, Ofsted director Luke Tryl told FE week that a “huge number” of them will be “related to FE”.

“A lot of what we do is cross remit,” he said.

“The educational effectiveness literature review is specifically looking at the evidence related to FE, and the project we’ve just carried out – ‘inspection methods and practice’ – tested lesson observations and work scrutiny in FE providers.

“Both of those, which are our two major evaluation projects, are very much applying to FE as well as schools.”

Mr Tryl continued to list more of the research projects which will be FE-related: “The project looking at how to measure intent, implementation and impact in a model of curriculum quality is with FE providers.

“We are doing a specific project on the 16 to 19 curriculum which is going to be an FE specific study focusing on the vocational curriculum and the curriculum as applied to apprenticeships.

“The workload and wellbeing project includes FE providers who we surveyed and followed up with visits, and the knowledge gaps for students is specifically a college project.”

Luke Tryl

Ofsted’s research into knife-crime, special educational needs, and initial teacher training will also be carried out using FE providers.

“We think we’re doing quite a lot in FE but because it doesn’t specifically say it in the title it looks like it’s only schools,” Mr Tryl added.

All of this work is being carried out with the ambition of ensuring the 2019 inspection framework is the “most evidenced based in Ofsted’s history”.

“When it comes to our own inspection practice gone are the days where an inspector walks into an institution and based on their experience they can come to a judgement,” Mr Tryl said.

“Actually their judgement should all be grounded in the evidence. We would be doing a disservice if we weren’t making sure that our inspections were based on latest evidence and they are valid and reliable.”

He explained that spending £1.2 million each year until 2020 on research “represents an increase” compared to recent years – although Ofsted could not provide actual figures for past years as “these aren’t comparable and aren’t readily available”.

“It [researching] is going back to something we used to do a lot more of,” Mr Tryl said.

“Pre-Sir Michael there was a much bigger focus on research and it is something Amanda has brought back.”

He added that FE providers can expects calls asking them to take part in the projects soon.


Ofsted’s 20 upcoming ‘major research and evaluation projects’