Phil Hatton calls for greater consistency with how Ofsted inspection teams report on the implementation of the anti-terrorism Prevent duty.

Ofsted’s eagerly awaited report into how the Prevent duty is being implemented across FE was published this week.

The intent come September is clear, that the inspectorate should “raise further its expectations of providers to implement all aspects of the Prevent duty, and evaluate the impact this has on keeping learners safe”.

So we can expect inspectors, many of whom will be new and largely trained online, to be checking the implementation of the duty with renewed vigour.

I am disappointed that the report has been published in that dead zone for FE where staff take their holidays.

Come September, a frenetic period, many will have completely missed it.

The report could have been a real game changer if the questions answered had included more focus on what would help the sector — identifying good practice that could be shared to improve what we do with our learners, rather than over focus on what was being done poorly.

I disagree with some of the conclusions.

Do the best providers block data on learners’ personal devices while on provider premises? Surely it’s better to educate them about radicalisation for when they are outside.

I have seen some fantastic good practice this year of how external speakers are vetted through partnerships and their input to learners is monitored.

I also know of a theatre production around Prevent that attracted thousands of people, while others have been using innovative presentations (one tailored to how youngsters had been radicalised in Devon), posters and speaker campaigns to publicise the dangers and help available from staff to support students and family members.

One college has a brilliant four-minute video on British values made by learners.

I also had first-hand experience of what some colleges encounter every day.

In one safeguarding office, three fairly serious issues were raised over one day that could have led to radicalisation of learners. That college had obviously promoted the duty very well to its students.

However, my biggest concern is over a lack of even-handedness with inspections.

Reports show a startling lack of consistency both in their judgements and editing quality.

Although Prevent came into force for FE in September 2015, Ofsted introduced checks into how it was being prepared for months before this.

My biggest concern is over a lack of even-handedness with inspections

As an example, a June 2015 report front page bullet point stated that “safeguarding of learners is not good enough; senior managers have not yet ensured that apprentices, staff and employers have been provided with appropriate guidance to enable them to identify the risks posed by extremism and radicalisation”.

Yet the important guidance section on what the provider needed to do to improve further did not contain a single mention of how that provider should address this.

The safeguarding section of the report also informed us that “safeguarding measures ensure that the statutory requirements for safeguarding are met”.

But it added “they are not yet good (!!!!) because managers have not developed suitable training for staff and apprentices in how to keep themselves and those around them safe from extremism and radicalisation”.

So statutory obligations, which Ofsted claim to base inspection on, were met — yet they were still hit firmly with the Prevent stick.

I also know of two examples, since the duty came into force, of inconsistency in reports where safeguarding was deemed to be effective.

One in November 2015 identified a main weakness that managers had not ensured staff understood their responsibilities under Prevent “to ensure that learners are kept safe”.

It added that staff had not been trained for the duty and had “mixed levels of awareness”.

The second is a February 2016 report containing the judgement that leaders had “recently introduced measures to ensure that the college complies with its Prevent duties, but have yet to include subcontractors (eight named in report) in these arrangements”. Are subcontracted learners less ‘equal’ than they should be?

Ofsted needs to ensure consistency through thorough training of inspectors, better monitoring of inspection practice and reporting, if it is to evaluate the duty fairly.

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  1. AELP have produced a useful briefing paper on the Ofsted survey (no 41) which while supporting my conclusion that it is not good practice to block data for wireless devices, also points out that it is illegal under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006 with a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine! There was a time when surveys went before a scrutiny committee prior to publication to ensure that these kind of mistakes did not creep into surveys. It also points to the lack of understanding and need for training of inspectors before they step-up their focus on the Prevent Duty come September.