Hackney Community College first to be rated under new Ofsted framework — but report layout comes under fire

Hackney Community College went up an Ofsted grade to good today as it became the first FE and skills provider rated under the new common inspection framework — but the revamped report itself came under fire.

The 6,200-learner East London college was inspected from September 29 to October 2, having previously been visited by the education watchdog in March last year with the resulting 19-page report featuring grade three — ‘requires improvement’ — ratings in each of the four headline fields.Phil-Hatton_web

The latest report, at 10 pages long, paints a rosier picture at the college, with eight out of the now-nine headline fields being rated as good and the other as requires improvement.

But the document itself has drawn criticism for a”broad brush stroke but superficial approach” from former Ofsted inspector Phil Hatton (pictured right), who now works as an adviser at the Learning Improvement Services.

Numerical gradings, previously listing outstanding as one and good as two and so on, have been dropped from the new reports along with round-up tables that used to sit towards the back of Ofsted reports. There was also a new pared-down colour scheme of light blue, black and white.

The changes come as part of Ofsted’s new unified framework, introduced from September across the FE and skills, early years and schools sectors.

Hackney SEPT 2015
Above: Hackney Community College’s 2015 Ofsted inspection report cover – with numerical gradings absent
Hackney March 2014
Above: Hackney Community College’s 2014 Ofsted inspection report cover – featuring numerical gradings

“The style is more readable but in attempting to cover, judge and write about the work of a whole college, the level of sampling and applying findings more widely to the whole is a very difficult one to get right and have confidence in,” said Mr Hatton.

He added: “They will evolve but first thoughts are that they would benefit from more meat about what a college is doing well so that others can benefit”.

Further key changes in the new-style inspection reports include a new focus on learners’ personal development, behaviour and welfare, and a change from reporting on subject areas to types of provision.

Types of provision that can be covered in FE and skills inspection reports include 16 to 19 study programmes, adult learning programmes, apprenticeships, provision for learners with high needs, traineeships and full-time provision for 14- to 16-year-olds.

A spokesperson for Ofsted ruled out the return of the numerical grading system in reports, said: “In line with our common inspection framework we have sought to make our reports clearer, more straightforward and more closely comparable across remits”.

Hackney Community College’s Ofsted lead, deputy principal Lois Fowler, was unavailable for comment on the new-style report.

However, Hackney college principal Ian Ashman (pictured above) said he was “delighted” at the result of his inspection. Among its comments was the statement that “since the previous inspection, leaders and managers have successfully focused on precise improvement actions and outcomes for learners and teaching; learning and assessment are now good.”

Mr Ashman said: “The report reads extremely strongly, with praise for all departments of the college, for students, staff, managers and governors.”

A spokesperson for the Association of Colleges declined to comment on the new style reports, adding that it was more appropriate for college principals to comment.

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  1. To put my comment on the level of sampling and getting it right into context, Hackney have over 1000 apprentices who were inspected largely by one specialist over four days – one of which would have been largely writing and grading. Is that enough to make accurate, secure judgements when you need to sample on and off-the-job training, reviews and talk to as many employers and apprentices as you can?

    Well done to Ian Ashman and his staff. It is not easy to make the number of improvements Hackney have achieved in 18 months in a large urban college.

  2. Shock Horror……they have removed numerical grading. Well…. I think I’m just about capable of knowing that good is a Grade 2 and requires improvement in a Grade 3. Do we really care about a report layout? Come on FE Week – seriously is this even worth reporting??

    The only person who seems upset is Phil Hatton, who came up with this sentence:

    “The style is more readable but in attempting to cover, judge and write about the work of a whole college, the level of sampling and applying findings more widely to the whole is a very difficult one to get right and have confidence in,”

    Perhaps that’s the reason he’s an Ex Ofsted Inspector.