Busted – Wilshaw caught making up evidence in effort to further criticise colleges

Ofsted’s chief inspector’s criticism about “uniformly weak” careers guidance in colleges has been exposed for lacking any identifiable external source or inspection based evidence.

Sir Michael Wilshaw made the accusation yet again during a speech at the Baker Dearing conference today.

He said: “Report after report finds that careers guidance in both schools and colleges is uniformly weak, while the way we prepare young people for the world of work remains poor.”

But when asked by FE Week if Ofsted could provide evidence to back Sir Michael’s claims, a spokesperson admitted that the chief inspector was not referencing individual Ofsted inspection reports, he was instead, “talking more about external reports on this matter”.

The spokesperson then directed FE Week to two documents relating to the matter, but neither had direct criticism of careers guidance delivered by colleges.

A recent report by the parliamentary sub-committee highlighted “inadequate” skills advice in schools, but no mention of poor college advice was made.

And a report by the Local Government Association last year only cited that young people would benefit more from career guidance delivered by local areas, instead of schools and colleges.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) hit back at Sir Michael’s “broad assertion”.

Martin Doel, chief executive of the AoC, told FE Week: “As we have said before, statements made by the chief inspector need to be based on evidence and not just broad assertion.

“Careers advice in colleges is required, as a condition of funding, to be externally accredited against external standards which provide a further level of scrutiny and assurance, over and above that required of schools.

“Colleges recognise the critical nature of good careers education and advice and are very keen to continue to work together with their local schools to improve the overall system.”

The outgoing Sir Michael, who will be replaced by former Ofqual chair Amanda Spielman at the end of the year, also used his speech to note the furore he caused earlier this year when he said the FE sector is “inadequate at best” and then called for all 16 to 19-year-olds to be educated in schools.

He told the conference: “My candid assessment earlier this year of the state of 16 to 19 education in England drew a furious response and landed me in all sorts of trouble with the FE sector.

“My remarks arose from exasperation with the status quo and the glacial pace of change. They reflected my concern that too many GFE colleges are still packing their curriculum with low-quality courses that fail to match the skills gaps in the local and national labour market.

“And they betrayed my frustration with the fact that so many young people who failed to reach the grade in maths and English at 16 still haven’t got these key qualifications two years later.”

He then hit out at the “alarming rate of underperformance and failure” in colleges.

He told the conference: “Nearly half of the 71 GFE colleges inspected by Ofsted this academic year have been judged to be less than good — including 10 colleges that were inadequate.

“This is an alarming rate of underperformance and failure, especially when we remember that the majority of 16- to 19-year-olds are educated in the FE sector.”

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  1. FE Lecturer

    “And they betrayed my frustration with the fact that so many young people who failed to reach the grade in maths and English at 16 still haven’t got these key qualifications two years later.”
    He does not seem to have the deductive powers or common sense to work out that the problem is with the students, not the FE system. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink it!
    He also seems to unable to understand that satisfactory (not requires improvement) is a realistic grade given that an axe has been taken to FE college budgets. Staff and managers are overworked and many FE colleges are in reality close to collapse. You can’t run a Rolls Royce on a Skoda budget.

  2. Wilshaw is right about some things. Preparation for employment is a treacherous notion and there has been a big decline in FE teaching curriculum quality and assessment standards over the past three decades which has impacted on the general quality of apprenticeship training and the FE offer. My empirical study of English plumbing training discusses ‘quality’ and supports Wilshaw’s position https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/15728

  3. The FE sector is the only one that bothers to try and give independent careers advice. I recently went along to the equivalent of a careers event for parents and sixth formers at my daughters school and the only things covered were UCAS and the wonders of £35,000 worth of debt for going into HE. The word ‘apprenticeship’ was not used once. The PowerPoint presentations were not able to be projected because the ‘bulb had gone’ in the afternoon. Could you imagine that happening in a college? Yes the school is outstanding but the fact my daughter has just finished year 12 and they have yet to be inspected in her school life there tells you how out of touch the Ofsted figures around the school sector is. As I said when Sir Michael made his fabricated headlines earlier in the year, his appalling leadership of Ofsted has brought the inspectorate into disrepute. The promises made about short inspections have not occurred and the many good FE providers subjected to full inspections have been given no reason. So much for the advice given to good providers that it was not necessary to prepare for inspections by Lorna Fitzjohn in FE Week, in an Ofsted video and at an AoC event hosted by Ofsted HMI last September in London. Ofsted, under Wilshaw, cannot be trusted to do what they say they will do. No wonder so many good inspectors are leaving Ofsted yet again this summer, unable to stand anymore of the leadership of Wilshaw