Ofsted annual report presents mixed bag for FE and skills with growth in quality provision — but employer engagement remains an issue

Ofsted’s annual report today painted a mixed picture for FE and skills, highlighting a rise in the proportion of good or outstanding providers while also pointing to one-in-six learners at less than good providers.

It said that in 2013/14, 3.2 million learners were at grade one or two providers because 81 per cent of providers were judged to be good or outstanding at their latest inspection — compared with 72 per cent the previous year and 64 per cent as at August 31, 2012.

However, “30 per cent of providers did not improve their overall effectiveness grade. Seven declined and were judged to be inadequate,” according to the report.

It added: “Inspectors found that many of these providers had failed to improve the quality of teaching and learning and learners were not making adequate progress towards their learning goals.”

Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw (pictured) wrote: “The FE and skills sector has a critical role in ensuring that all young people and adults are appropriately prepared for good-quality jobs. It is encouraging, therefore, that we have seen an increase in the proportion of FE providers judged to be good or outstanding at their latest inspection.

“This reflects improvements in the quality of teaching, learning and assessment in providers inspected this year. However, I am concerned that there is not enough good teaching in the subject areas where it is needed most.

“Too many young people are leaving schools and colleges without the skills and attitudes employers are looking for. Indeed, despite there being around one million young people aged 16 to 24 not in work, education or training, 22 employers report that almost three in every 10 vacancies are hard to fill.”

The report went on to echo Ofsted criticism earlier this year on study programmes, saying: “Inspection found that colleges and schools with sixth forms in particular had failed to respond to the requirements of the new 16 to 19 study programmes quickly enough.”

English and maths teaching and learning was “still not good enough,” it said, and also claimed that “too many young people … leave the sector with insufficient direct experience of work at external employers.”

Sir Michael also repeated calls in last year’s annual report for greater employer engagement in the sector.

“If employers, especially small- or medium-sized enterprises, are going to get more involved in the design and delivery of apprenticeships and in vocational education more generally, they must be given the right support and incentives to do so,” he wrote.

“This could be channelled through existing employer networks, such as local enterprise partnerships and chambers of commerce. Such networks could help organise apprenticeships at a local level and give advice to employers on how to source training and funding.”

He added: “The FE and skills sector is generally better than it was two years ago in terms of the quality of provision. However, too many institutions are still not equipping learners with the knowledge and skills that employers seek.”

See edition 122 of FE Week, dated Monday, December 15, for more.

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  1. Country Bumpkin

    Perhaps time for a thought about what the word outstanding actually means, “clearly very much better than what is usual” is generally how it’s described in dictionaries.
    So under Ofsted judgements, in a few years, when the majority of providers have reached grade 1 you’ll no longer be able to label them as outstanding as they will have become ‘usual’.
    My suggestion would be that politicians call for an urgent review and introduce a Grade 1*, perhaps calling it “Nu Outstanding” or “We’re all outstanding together”. That’ll fix it.