Ofsted’s autumn visits: what FE providers need to know

Ofsted has today published further details about how their “interim visits” of FE providers will work this autumn.

The watchdog stressed these will not be routine inspections and will not result in a judgement grade.

The guidance follows an announcement in July that Ofsted would use a phased return to routine inspections, following a pause to this activity as result of Covid-19. The full inspection regime is planned to resume in January 2021.

Some monitoring visit activity of new providers will also resume from this month.

Here is what providers need to know…

 

When will the interim visits begin?

September 28 to the end of December 2020.

 

The purpose of interim visits which could trigger a full inspection

Ofsted states that the interim visits are to help learners, parents, employers and government “understand how providers are meeting the needs of students and apprentices in this period, including learners with high needs and those with special educational needs and disabilities”.

While existing Ofsted grades will not change as a result of the visit, the watchdog will publish the outcomes of the visits in a “brief report to share what steps are being taken to enable learners to resume a full programme of education or training”.

However, “significant concerns” identified on an interim visit could trigger an early full inspection or a monitoring visit.

 

How long will the visits last and what will Ofsted explore?

Each interim visit will last two working and days and inspectors will explore three themes:

  1. What actions are leaders taking to ensure that they provide an appropriate curriculum that meets the reasonable needs of learners and stakeholders and adapts to changed circumstances?
  2. What steps are leaders, managers and staff taking to ensure that the approaches used for building knowledge and skills are appropriate to meet the reasonable needs of learners?
  3. How are leaders ensuring that learners are safe and well informed about potential risks, including from online sources?

Leaders “do not need to prepare anything for the visit, beyond what is part of normal business for the provider”.

Inspectors will try to work on site at the provider’s premises “wherever possible”, but recognise it may be necessary to carry out some meetings, discussions or aspects of the visit remotely.

Conversations with senior leaders will be the “main source of evidence”. Inspectors will want to “discuss the impact of Covid-19 and identify any barriers that the provider is facing in managing the return to full education and training for all learners”.

Inspectors will talk to staff and learners “if it is safe and appropriate to do so” and they may also speak to subcontractors, employers and other stakeholders.

Ofsted made clear they will not carry out “deep dives” or directly observe teaching or training. However, they may look at the provider’s records, especially on safeguarding.

 

Providers will be given at least 2 days’ notice, but can request a deferral

The watchdog said they will normally notify a provider of an interim visit up to two working days before the on-site stage of the visit, but this could be extended to four working days if the provider or college is particularly large.

A provider may request a deferral of an interim visit but it will be for Ofsted to decide whether a deferral should be granted “in accordance with our deferral policy”.

 

Which providers will be chosen for autumn visits?

Ofsted will prioritise providers with an ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ inspection grade, providers that the watchdog has identified “risks and concerns” about, as well as a sample of ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ providers and newly merged colleges.

 

Letters will be published within 38 working days of a visit

Ofsted says it will write to the provider within 18 working days of the end of the visit, setting out in a draft report what inspectors found.

The provider will then have five working days to comment on the draft report, inspection process and findings. Ofsted will “consider all comments and we will respond to the comments when we share the final report with the provider” within 30 working days after the visit.

If the provider wishes to submit a formal complaint, it will have until the end of the fifth working day after receiving the final report to do so.

Ofsted will normally publish the report on its website within 38 working days of the end of the visit, but this could be delayed if a complaint is being investigated.

The watchdog said it may share the provisional findings, before a report is published, with the FE Commissioner, ESFA, DfE, Ofqual, Office for Students or devolved authorities.

 

New provider monitoring visits to continue

From September 28, Ofsted will resume monitoring visits to new providers if they were judged to be making ‘insufficient progress’ against one or more themes at their previous early monitoring visit and would have been due their full inspection up to or during this interim phase but have not received it because of the suspension of routine inspections

Both of the above factors must apply.