Time is running out to respond to Ofsted’s consultation on its new Common Inspection Framework proposals.

The deadline is November 24 so if you’re thinking about adding your two-penneth, you need to get your skates on.

This is a rare opportunity to pass judgment on Ofsted (doesn’t normally happen that way around).

After reading the document, Agitator felt the need to share one of the more ‘radical’ proposals.

The consultation proposes that ‘Ofsted will welcome requests for inspection and it will be for HMCI to decide whether and when to inspect the provider.

The Education Bill provides Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) with additional powers to agree to requests for schools and providers to be inspected and to charge a fee for such an inspection.’

So, it’s Ofsted’s idea that colleges should have the ability to buy a quickie re inspection.

Now, call me a bluff old traditionalist but doesn’t this have the words ‘unintended consequences’ written all over it? I mean, Ofsted is not X Factor… should you really be able to ‘come back’ the following year, if you don’t quite live up to expectations, and pay to have another go?

Clearly the price tag once decided would be of considerable interest, and discussions I’ve heard in the sector have mooted figures of between £35K and £50K for a re inspection.

You might wonder why college’s would spend their increasingly squeezed budgets on more Ofsted inspections.
Here’s a few reasons why:

College A is less than happy with its new Ofsted grade. It may have been an outstanding college that has narrowly missed its previously earned ‘beacon’ status.

College A is going to be under tremendous pressure to part with £50K of its learners’ dosh to buy back its reputation.

College B is a good provider that has improved significantly since its previous inspection, it may feel that there is compelling evidence (£50K’s worth) that it might be judged outstanding were it to be re inspected.

College C was previously judged outstanding and is exempted from routine inspection it’s feeling pretty confident and would like to renew its ‘outstanding’ badge and is happy to pay tens of thousands of pounds to do so.

College D is a really failing college, and is asking if there’s a ‘buy two get one free’ offer!

Joking aside, this new departure doesn’t sit right. College relationships with Ofsted are bound to change as they become a source of income.

Will colleges be demanding a different service if they are paying for it? Will Ofsted get any future business if re-inspections do not result in higher grades?

As Ofsted becomes commericalised there may even be competition, like the train and utility companies.

I guess the big and concise question that I’m actually asking is, How will Ofsted be able to maintain its independence if its for hire?
Will Ofsted be tempted to downgrade colleges to upsell a re inspection? How would we know?

And… will Ofsted have institution or monetary targets to meet, to measure the effectiveness of this new…venture?

Agitator lays the unanswered questions bare, inspect them carefully and let me know what you think….at no charge.

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  1. Lesley Ellis

    I offer a fourth scenario. . .

    College D was graded inadequate because some of the improvements it was already implementing failed to demonstrate sufficient impact because the new systems had only been in place for 3-6 months. By the time of the follow-up re inspection monitoring visit 6 months later, all areas were rated as showing ‘significant progress’. Had College D been able to purchase an earlier full reinspection, funding caps preventing growth could have been removed before redundancies needed to be made.