Full graded Ofsted inspections will not return until the summer term, the government has announced.
But monitoring visits, including to those with grade three and four ratings and new apprenticeship providers, will resume in January.
Ofsted said FE providers that do not receive a monitoring visit “may receive support and assurance visits”, which will result in a report but no grade, similar to the “interim visits” being run this autumn.
The watchdog will also continue to have the power to inspect an education provider if they have serious concerns about safeguarding.
Under a raft of measures announced today for holding exams in 2021, education secretary Gavin Williamson said that Ofsted’s full return has been pushed back again until the summer term. Full inspections have been paused since the outbreak of Covid-19 in March.
The inspectorate described the plans as a “phased return” to normal activity.
Chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, said: “The usual level of scrutiny within the education and care system has been absent since last March, so it’s important that it returns next year as we all hope for a greater level of normality.
“But we understand the pressure that everyone in education is working under and we want to return to our usual work in a measured, sensitive and practical way.”
She added: “Our role is to offer the greatest assurance we can to parents and the public about the quality of education and care arrangements for children and learners. These plans will help us support the providers who are facing the greatest challenges during these difficult times.
“They will ensure that inspection is fair, safe and valuable, while remaining true to our core purpose and principles.”
FE Week asked Ofsted if the return of monitoring visits will include a progress judgement, as they did pre-pandemic, but did not receive a response at the time of going to press.
During Tuesday’s launch of Ofsted’s annual report, the inspectorate said it was keen to restart monitoring visits of new providers in particular after finding big concerns with the quality of apprenticeship delivery last year.
Chief executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes, said he was “pleased to see the common sense decision that full Ofsted inspections will not commence until summer term” as they would be “impossible to carry out fairly and safely in these conditions”.
He added that he would urge the DfE “not to continue barring colleges with legacy ‘requires improvement’ grades from being able to deliver T Levels, Institutes of Technology and other programmes where they have good sustained progress on quality”.