Ofsted annual report: Staff shortages hampering quality

Here's what we learned from the latest Ofsted annual report, covering the first year of inspections since the pandemic

Here's what we learned from the latest Ofsted annual report, covering the first year of inspections since the pandemic

13 Dec 2022, 11:00

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Ofsted has published its annual report on the state of education and social care for the last academic year – the first full year of inspections since the pandemic. 

Amanda Spielman, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector, has warned that recruitment and staffing problems are rife across the whole education and care system, from early years to colleges and independent training providers. “Fewer college staff can result in larger class sizes of mixed abilities, making it difficult to pitch training at the right level,” the report states.

Low salaries and “staff reconsidering their careers after the pandemic” are to blame to staffing shortages in providers, according to the report.

The report analyses the performance of colleges, training providers, adult and community education providers and some higher education institutions for the 2021/22 academic year. FE Week analysed the results of those inspections prior to the annual report.

The FE and skills sector’s overall performance has stayed the same as a headline level – 82 per cent good or ‘outstanding’ – as last year. However this hides some improvements in performance in some areas and declines in performance in others.

The proportion of all colleges now at ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ has increased 11 percentage points to 91 per cent.

Here are the key findings for FE and skills from today’s report…

Improving first inspections

The number of new providers achieving ‘good’ inspection outcome at their first inspection has improved by 14 percentage points compared to pre-Covid 2018/19. 

According to Ofsted 65 per cent of the 330 providers that received their first full inspection this year scored a ‘good’ or better for overall effectiveness.

Inspectors put the improvement in performance of new providers to the introduction of new provider monitoring visits in 2018, the ESFA’s register of apprenticeship training providers and “the efforts of providers themselves.”

Inspecting exempt providers

Ofsted say a focus of theirs this year has been inspecting providers that have not been inspected for a long time because of a previous ‘outstanding’ grade. 

In 2021/22, 31 formerly exempt providers were inspected. Of those 14 retained their ‘outstanding’ grade, 14 were judged ‘good’ and three fell two grades to ‘requires improvement’. 

Ofsted says apprenticeship inspection grades have fallen slightly

Seventy-seven per cent of providers inspected this year achieved either a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ grade or at least ‘reasonable progress’ at a new provider monitoring visit. This is down four percentage points on last year. 

Ofsted cited poorly co-ordinated on- and off-the-job training, poor preparation for end-point assessments and narrow curricula as common reasons for ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ apprenticeship inspections. 

Some apprentices are still making slow progress due to the pandemic, Ofsted has said. The report highlights that some are still having to continue beyond their planned end dates in sectors that were hardest hit, such as hospitality, travel and health and social care.

Prison education slammed

The dire state of the quality of education in prisons is perhaps the most damning section in today’s report.  

Of the 22 prison education services inspected in 2021/22, half were judged ‘inadequate’, 10 were judged ‘requires improvement’ and one scored ‘good’. 

Ofsted has said that high levels of staff absence among prison staff and contractors is having a damaging effect on the quality of education. As a result, too few prisoners are able to access education and training and there are backlogs in assessing additional learning needs. 

Inspecting T Levels

Too many teachers didn’t feel prepared to teach T Levels, Ofsted has said today, repeating its concerns from its T Levels research earlier this year. 

Shortages in specialist staff to deliver T Levels and the impact of the pandemic in some sectors also meant had an impact on the quality of industry placements, Ofsted have reiterated today.

Still too much online learning

Today’s report echoes Ofsted’s education recovery research which found that there were cases where online learning was being used without clear benefits to apprentices and learners.

“We are concerned that a small number of providers continue to teach programmes substantially to entirely online, with no clear benefit for learners” today’s report states.

Specialist colleges perform poorly overall

As previously reported by FE Week, a large proportion of independent specialist colleges received poor inspection judgements this year. Only 47 per cent independent specialist colleges were judged good or outstanding, 31 per cent require improvement and 22 per cent were found to be inadequate.

High needs provision across other providers fared much better in inspections this year. In total, 84 per cent scored ‘good’ or better for high needs, 15 per cent ‘require improvement’ and one was judged ‘inadequate’.

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