The ongoing decline in the number of colleges with outstanding inspection results risks seriously undermining confidence in the sector.

This comes at a time when our minister Robert Halfon keeps stressing the importance of boosting the public image of FE.

Surely colleges can’t be solely to blame for this.

They clearly have a problem with securing the top score under the current common inspection framework.

I suspect this is due, in part at least, to problems with assessing increasingly large and diverse institutions, often spread over multiple towns and cities.

To her credit, the new chief inspector Amanda Spielman sympathised with colleges’ plight when I interviewed her in March, and looked ahead to possible changes in how they are inspected following an imminent review.

We haven’t seen the results of this yet, but let’s hope long-mooted plans to introduce “campus level” inspections, which would involve different reports for separate local college campuses that exist within a large merger, are a key change to emerge.



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  1. It has already recently happened with some ‘merged’ colleges that ‘campus’ inspections have been made. Perhaps the best future model would be to conduct them in the same time frame so that overarching systems that apply to all (such as governance and leadership)can be scrutinised once rather than two or three times, perhaps even in the same year. As a user of a college, learners and employers are going to be most interested in what they will still perceive as happening in their local college, which will be lost if the report is on a large merged entity.