All change to Ofsted inspections in FE

Reflecting on the potential challenges facing colleges and providers as a result of changes in funding, I have given much thought as to how providers might respond and how vital it will be that they are able to evaluate the impact on learners of a sector ‘doing more for less’ against the criteria that the new framework methodology proposes.

Every college and provider will respond in different ways according to their vision and curriculum offer and ‘localism’ appears to be a key theme embraced by many. Undoubtedly, some will be affected much more by cuts in funding than others, and all will be considering a number of key questions to explore and evaluate during their self assessment this coming year.

From an inspection perspective, the number one question is always ‘What is the quality of the learner’s experience, how does the provider know, measure and evaluate this and how do they drive further improvements to that experience?’

With the refining of inspection methodology towards teaching, learning and assessment, some providers may be tempted into not evaluating and valuing the ‘wrap around’ aspect of all the contributory elements of good and better learning.

With a reducing budget, and efficiency gains required, it will be interesting to see how each provider has responded with strategies for maintaining, and indeed improving, standards.

I am sure providers must be wondering how will inspectors evaluate, judge and report on a wide range of scenarios? For example with colleges, how is it managing the impact of a reduced entitlement on tutorials, pastoral support, and enrichment?

What has been the impact on learners of the strategies and management decisions made? What impact has the withdrawal of the Educational Maintenance Award [EMA] had on learner enrolments and retention and what action has a college taken?

It will be interesting to see how each provider has responded with strategies for maintaining, and indeed improving, standards”

With regard to employability skills and the increased requirements for more work related programmes and job related outcomes, how will providers respond and what should their expectations be?

Plans are well underway to prepare for the new inspection framework, and the sector is eagerly awaiting the findings and decisions made as a result of the Ofsted pilot inspections if my in box is anything to go on.

Providers and additional inspectors are keen to consider the implications of ‘no notice’ inspections and what the consequences might be for them both as providers, practitioners and inspectors. It is clear that inspection providers will need to review ways of working with their workforce quite significantly if some of the proposals are implemented in September 2012.

Providers and inspectors will need to ensure that they reflect on measuring the positive impact of partnership working, for example, in judging strategies to engage and retain learners who are or were previously not in education and training [NEET] and how that provision is designed effectively to meet local needs.

With government expectations of increased numbers of 16-18 year old learners staying in full time education and training, inspectors will be evaluating what impact this volume of learners will have on maintaining high standards, and where growth has been experienced, how for example, has the provider managed to find additional apprentices?

Is the provision targeted to local needs and national skills shortages and is what is being offered acceptable and to a high standard?

Inspectors are already in a position of evaluating the complex issue of the impact of minimum contract levels on learners, how the subcontracted aspect to the learner experience has evolved to embrace the expansion and how provider’s are refining arrangements to ensure all learners have a positive learning experience.

A nominee commented to me recently and said ‘you know Jules; we wouldn’t stay in FE if we didn’t like continual change’. How true, I thought.

Julie Wootten, Assistant
Director Inspections, Tribal

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