The FE sector is “inadequate at best” according to Ofsted’s Sir Michael Wilshaw, who has also hit out at colleges’ “uniformly weak” careers advice on offer.

He is due to make the comments in a speech later this afternoon, called ‘Ambitions for English Education’, for the thinktank CentreForum.

“Educational provision, for the many children who do not succeed at 16 or who would prefer an alternative to higher education, is inadequate at best and non-existent at worst,” Sir Michael is expected to say.

Responding to achievement targets for 16-year-olds, set out by CentreForum in its annual report, published Friday (January 15), he is due to say: “But what of the quarter to a third of youngsters who cannot achieve those challenging targets? What is to become of them?

“Even when I was head at Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, which had a great academic reputation, 20 per cent of youngsters failed to reach our targets.

“Most of them went to a local FE college, usually a large, impersonal and amorphous institution, and did badly.”

Sir Michael is also expected to criticise the standard of careers advice on offer at schools and colleges.

“Preparation for employment remains poor and careers guidance in both schools and colleges is uniformly weak,” he is expected to say.

He adds: “No area of the country, however, can really claim to succeed when it comes to provision for those youngsters who do not do well at 16.

“Nor can we say that we are really delivering high-quality vocational education to youngsters of all abilities who would prefer to take this route.

“The statistics show that those who fail to achieve the required grades in maths and English at 16 make little or no progress in FE colleges two years later.

“The 16-19 Study Programme is yet to make an impact on these success rates.”

Sir Michael is also expected to outline his vision for what he called “federations” of schools, which would include university technical colleges “that would admit youngsters across the ability range to focus on apprenticeships at levels 4, 3 and 2”.

“It would not be a dumping ground for the disaffected and cater just for the lower-ability youngsters.”

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  1. This another example of an ill informed view in relation to the quality of provision within fe. Broad generalised statements are demotivating and frustrating at best. Give us adequate funding, focus on quality GCSE delivery in schools, provide sufficient funding to support the rising number of learners entering fe with social, emotional and mental health needs. Stop blaming fe for the failure of entry level learners and focus more on the quality and suitability of the curriculum those learners have received at school.

  2. FE Lecturer

    “The FE sector is “inadequate at best”
    Perhaps the problem is with the young people we get, not the FE colleges!
    I teach MANY Students who show little interest in their STUDIES despite the fact that they have chosen their qualification. Many
    – are very immature
    – have little desire to really learn.
    – cannot follow instructions.
    – cannot concentrate for very long.
    – have poor thinking study skills.
    – think everything is too much trouble.
    – are addicted to their mobile phone and
    frequently need to be told to put it away.
    – do not read their notes between lessons.
    It is very disappointing that the great and good do not seem to see the reality of the near bankrupt FE system and the nature of many students who attend.

  3. FE Lecturer

    Sir Michael is also expected to outline his vision for what he called “federations” of schools, which would include university technical colleges “that would admit youngsters across the ability range to focus on apprenticeships at levels 4, 3 and 2”.
    Perhaps someone would be kind enough to point out to Sir Michael that an apprentice is an employee paid by a company, not a pupil at a school or a student on a full time college course. Perhaps he should understand a bit more about apprenticeships before offering us his visions for the future.

  4. White paper

    Self preservation is the nature of a organisation like Ofsted. No doubt it’s thought that aligning the message to echo that of Area Reviews will help.

    It’ a kick in the teeth for us ineffective, lazy, poorly intentioned and generally worthless staff though.

    (btw – I just read this article and responded in my lunch break, you are getting your money’s worth!)

  5. Even by his own admission his exemplar of educational excellence had 20% not meeting targets so how does he expect FE Colleges to pass GCSEs in 8 months when his Ofsted outstanding institution failed them after five years.

    When is the next Jurassic Park release so this dinosaur can retire there!

  6. Mike ex FE Manager

    What – a group of underpaid, low morale lecturers and their increasingly confused and over-stressed managers can’t put right in 2 years, what the well funded state sector couldn’t fix in 11 years of compulsory education? Its a disgrace.

  7. Sir Michael Wilshaw is a pompous twit. His only contribution is to make negative comments about the FE and Skills sector. Having previously been the head teacher of a medium sized school does not qualify him to make judgements on FE colleges. He clearly does not understand the sector and the valuable contribution it makes to communities and employers up and down the UK. The FE and Skills sector can have very little trust in Ofsted with Sir Michael at its helm. It would be good to see the AoC, 157 group or the FE Commissioner respond to Sir Michael’s inappropriate comments.

  8. LRoding

    Wilshaw in spouting more uninformed nonsense shocker. Running a faux grammar school clearly hasn’t given him the critical thinking powers necessary to do this job. If Ofsted is supposed to improve standards, by his own admission, he’s failed spectacularly with FE. Shouldn’t that be the central part of the text of his resignation letter?

  9. It is a real pity that Sir Michael chooses to use such outdated and incorrect language to describe the education and training provided by FE colleges. Colleges provide excellent pastoral support, work hard to ensure that all students are supported to help them succeed and advance their valuable employability skills and develop their career opportunities.
    It is well documented, not least by Ofsted itself, that careers guidance in schools is not up to standard, and that is why AoC has been campaigning for ongoing careers education to help young people to prepare for the world of work

  10. Rhys Evans

    Any HMI who has worked in Ofsted (as I did) and has inspected colleges knows full well that the school inspection regime has systematically treated colleges far more harshly than school sixth forms. To describe colleges as generally inadequate neither aligns with Ofsted’s own evidence nor the experience of inspectors and students and is an insult to both.