Ofsted boss Sir Michael Wilshaw has said all 16 to 19-year-olds should be educated in schools, during a parliamentary session in which he attacked the FE sector again.

He was speaking in front if MPs at an oral evidence session of the Education Committee, chaired by Neil Carmichael, this morning.

“My view is that 16 to 19 should be done in school,” the Ofsted boss said.

Vulnerable learners who need a familiar environment “head off towards the FE institution which is a large, amorphous institution on a number of campuses and do badly. They get lost. Drop out,” he continued.

Sir Michael said that schools moving together into a clusters provided a “really great opportunity” to ensure high quality vocational education.

“If I was running one of those I’d have primary schools, I’d have secondary schools and I’d have a couple of UTCs [university technical colleges] as well,” he said.

“I’d make sure the progression was good, and I’d know the vocational offer that we were providing was of high quality.”

His comments come six weeks after Sir Michael hit out at an “inadequate at best” FE sector during a speech for the thinktank CentreForum – criticism against which the sector subsequently defended itself.

He also attacked the FE sector in today’s evidence session.

“The FE sector is in a mess – that’s why the government is reviewing it at the moment,” the Ofsted boss, who is due to retire in December, told MPs today.

“Youngster who don’t do very well at 16 often don’t do very well two years later, particularly in English and maths where the results are pretty poor,” he said.

The reliance on success rates to secure funding meant that “too many youngsters are put on level one courses when they should be challenged to do level two,” he said.

“We also find in too many GFE institutions that they haven’t thought carefully enough about their curriculum. The curriculum is often irrelevant to the local workplace and national employment,” Sir Michael alleged.

Core skills are “badly taught and results are pretty poor” in FE, he said.

Many FE colleges have amalgamated into large institutions, Sir Michael said, and “I’m not sure they’re delivering what the nation needs”.

Mr Wilshaw also defended his criticism of the standard of careers advice in colleges, which he said was based on inspection reports and destination data.

Colleges are “pretty poor at collecting destination data,” he said.

“They’re quite happy when they phone somebody up to say where are you working? Well, I’m doing a part-time job at MacDonalds, and to leave it at that.”

Read more about today’s evidence session as well as the sector reaction in next edition of FE Week.  Feel free to leave a comment below

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  1. It seems Mr Wilshaw’s retirement date is nine months too late…
    What a bunch of prejudiced nonsense. It has to be wilful because he must have the actual statistics at his fingertips, if anyone does! I don’t mind the odd rhetorical flourish, but this is a campaign of baseless rubbishing of our sector…

    • Observed

      Couldn’t agree more.

      If Ofsted’s oversight of the sector hasn’t led to any improvement in standards then surely Ofsted has a case to answer there. Perhaps this is an instance of ‘attack being the best form of defence’.

      I see that the workforce chestnut is wheeled out. Is he suggesting that Schools are better placed to judge what employers need locally and nationally? or is that just a bit of padding for the argument.

  2. Bob Smith

    He reminds me of the UK / Education version of Donald Trump. He doesn’t talk any sense and can’t back up any of his statements with any credible facts.

  3. Andrew Roberts

    It’s time OFSTED was disbanded, they have no idea about education certainly not in FE anyway and I’ll bet this guy has never been into a FE college.

    • Start a petition – Disband Ofsted. Someone ought to. I think it would be quite popular 🙂 It shouldn’t be the same inspection racket for nurseries through primary, secondary and FE, particularly when the head has bias…

  4. Andrew G-H

    I’m sick of this snobbery from Sir Mike. The FE sector has to pick up the pieces with learners who are removed from the academic process, with shrinking funds and resources. ‘The FE sector is in a mess?’ I’m not surprised considering the volume of reforms it’s had to implement, against the cuts its had to face.

    Perhaps Sir Mike can step down from his Ivory Tower sometime and try actually teaching in or being a vice principal at an FE college. Then he may change his tune.

  5. Kevin Cleaver

    A case of another politician speaking out the back of his head. When it come to English and Maths, schools have 12 years to deliver grade C and he then expects FE to fix the poor school result in less than 2 years. When it comes to vocational teaching, how do school teachers keep up with the latest standards for industry, most have never experienced working in the sectors yet he thinks they are better able to deliver the content. At FE institutions we are left with a lot of students that schools will not take back into their FE department and produce some amazing results for people that the school system failed, what planet does this man live on!

  6. Rob Jarvis

    What absolute nonsense;

    – the Government are reviewing the FE Sector because of the financial mess the disproportionately severe cuts that it imposed on FE have created, in reality Area Review has little to do with quality.

    – Obviously staying on at school and spending a further two years failing to achieve at English & Maths is the way forward! Rubbishing college’s efforts to turn around in one year what school’s have spent 5 years failing to achieve is outrageous.

    – College curricula are far more relevant to the local workplace and national employment than what’s being taught in most school 6th forms and in my experience students thrive in the College environment and welcome being treated like adults.

    Mr Wilshaw is worryingly out of touch with reality.

  7. Sir Michael Wilshaw should not be sharing his private and personal opinions about further education colleges in a public capacity. His comments are unhelpful and unsubstantiated. They are also overwhelmingly at odds with the findings of his inspectors.

    Further education colleges provide high-quality technical and professional education and training for young people, adults and employers. They provide the 844,000 16 to 18-year-olds who choose to study or undertake apprenticeships in colleges with valuable employability skills, helping to develop their career opportunities and strengthen the local, regional and national economy. Neither schools nor UTCs have the capacity to make this provision as well as colleges.

  8. Angela McCann

    I am appalled at the lack of insight into how many institutions are run and how programs of study are delivered. I work in the support services for an FE College. Students have their courses delivered by passionate and expert academic staff and also have a dedicated individual providing pastoral support and life skills training. My role is to support those students with additional learning needs to ensure they can access the curriculum, whilst completing the work themselves, building their confidence and therefore leaving with a qualification they deserve and that they have achieved through their own hard work and commitment. I also support students who wish to improve their performance, again they achieve this through their own efforts. With regard to the comment about “large amalgamated institutions”; perhaps if the government had not seen fit to starve the FE sector of funding, year on year, FE colleges could have remained in a smaller format. I previously had a long, successful career as a secondary school teacher; a career I loved, but I was driven out by the cost cutting, business modelled academy system, where experience is no longer valued. That aside I can wholeheartedly state that schools are not best placed to support vulnerable individuals; this again is due to funding issues and also due to the attitude and mindset of many secondary students who see different individuals as those who can be mocked, thus reducing their self esteem and confidence further. Mr Wilshaw has shown himself to be out of touch with education on so many levels, perhaps it is time to restructure OFSTED and introduce some realism into an organisation based on an idealistic fantasy of life and the school system.

  9. Oh dear, it is indeed very sad when a man in such a position embarrasses himself on a public forum, with inaccurate, distorted and defamatory information about a much beleaguered sector of very committed and hard working individuals.

  10. Ian W

    How can somebody in his position get away with such drivel? These statements are utterly unfounded and nothing short of slander. Does he not read his own inspectors’ reports on colleges? He has only ever known a school environment so this is his own little narrow perspective coming out. He is doing nothing for Ofsted’s credibility. He should be tapped on the shoulder and asked to stand down. I have worked in the FE sector for 26 years and continue to do so because it is life changing for many people who absolutely did not thrive at school.

  11. Lynne Sedgmore

    This man speaks from limited knowledge as he has never bothered to visit or spend time in FE colleges or to read any facts. He has no right to spill his personal unfounded predudice and ideological distortions onto hardworking, successful FE colleges, staff and students. These statements are probably setting himself up for his next role – please retire with dignity not with such disgraceful nonsense.

  12. While Ofsted have this person acting as Chief Inspector no one can really take anything they come up with about learning and skills seriously. He has brought the once important post into disrepute by making repeated unsubstantiated attacks on our sector. In normal circumstances where an employee displays such incompetence, by saying things as fact when they are not backed by evidence (the foundation and single principle of anything an inspectorate says) they would be subject to competency procedures. UTCs which he advocates for example, are such success stories that parents are not taking up the places available. I am very disappointed with politicians who allow this person to continually belittle the sector that largely clears up the mess made by his ‘outstanding’ schools. Why have so many employers said to me that they don’t understand how young people with GCSEs at grade C and above in English and maths, can’t write a simple letter or estimate simple sums? The answer is a simple one, schools teaching to pass exams not to develop skills, for which they get outstanding and good grades. He, and his distortion of how the sector performs, are unacceptable.

  13. Jayne Stigger

    To share private and somewhat biased thoughts in such a public manner is deeply unprofessional. He should be ashamed by such a lapse but will not be.

    Those who speak with such distorted understanding of a sector that has repeatedly proved its value beyond contestation are clearly not qualified to do so.

  14. Peter Pendle ATL/AMiE

    Wilshaw should pay a visit to one of the many very successful FE colleges around the country to understand the reality of the fantastic work being done. Teachers and lecturers in FE colleges are highly specialised and dedicated professionals who have had their working lives made almost impossible by huge budget cuts (up to 35%) and unrelenting policy reform over the past five years. Sixty three per cent of 16-18 year olds choose to study in FE colleges, and many of these have been disengaged with education in schools. FE colleges have developed expertise in working with some of the most vulnerable young people in society, including many with learning difficulties and disabilities. The vocational education provision, including apprenticeships, available through FE colleges is vital to improving the life chances of young people as well as meeting the skills needs of employers and contributing to the long term economic growth of the country.

  15. Ben Verinder

    ‘Vulnerable learners do badly in college’ says Mr Wilshaw. It’s so patently untrue, such a crude assessment, as to be laughable. Except it was made in front of a select committee and the national media. Bravo to those calling out this nonsense, but sadly it doesn’t seem to be making any difference. Can you impeach an HMCI? Strike them off? Before they blame colleges for, say, primary results?

  16. Eugene Greco

    Because schools have done such a good job with English and maths for all those kids that have to go to college to get the qualifications haven’t they? This man presides over a deeply dysfunctional and bogus inspection regime, yet he is given the oxygen to spout nonsense like this as though he is a credible and authoritative source of wisdom. No wonder the sector is in a mess with this kind of senior leadership being narrow in view and limited in understanding. Can’t wait for the change in December.

  17. Mike Cooper

    “Au contraire!”, Chief Inspector…

    When I become the Secretary of State – which I confidently expect to happen any week now – I will do otherwise. That is, no more sixth forms in schools. I will end all ‘schooling’ per se everywhere at 16, and make it therefore compulsory to move out from under the Headmistress’ apron/Head’s gown into the wide world (at least transitionally) via FE/tertiary, as a bridge to real life. Nice to think that two can play at the game of sweeping generalisations.

    Oh; and I might just make a reform or forty in the field of inspection, as my next move after that.

  18. Since Wilshaw’s professional assessment can and should only be based on the evidence presented to him by his inspectors, what does this say about the competence of the inspectorate as a whole? Not a lot.

  19. LRoding

    Wilshaw is a disgrace. No wonder ofsted is so prejudiced and useless with a man like him at the helm. He was head of an academy where he generated excellent results by creating the latter day equivalent of a grammar school. The fact that he is so arrogant as to believe that he can say what he wants, regardless of the facts that are clear for all to see, is damning in itself. His understanding of FE seems to have been gleaned from trawling through a file marked urban myths. If he read his own organisation’s reports he might even say something which has an element of truth about it.

    I’m afraid that Wilshaw and Ofsted are what you get when the position and the organisation are politicised. How I wish he would retire tomorrow and take a vow of silence.

  20. Graham Howe

    I believe anyone should be allowed to share their opinion, but given his role it must be substantiated. Most of the concerns have been discussed by other respondents. However, he’s declared that GFE are not planning curriculum relevant to the local and national workplace requirements. As the suggestion is that learners are better served in School, where is the evidence they plan curriculum and engage employers better than FE College?

  21. assessor council

    Ofsted have never on the whole supported the FE sector. Specifically work based learning, The man has not got a clue and has no credible evidence to support his argument,

    It’s time for a change, Ofsted is not a suitable oversight of the FE sector,

  22. FE Lecturer

    A staggering display of arrogance, ignorance and incompetence. Is his bias the reason why so many FE colleges are now receiving low grades?
    HE says “Youngster who don’t do very well at 16 often don’t do very well two years later, particularly in English and maths where the results are pretty poor,”.
    Most people with common sense would suggest this is because the failing students are not making the required effort or are not capable of this level of study.

  23. Carole Kitching

    Shockingly ill informed comments undermining the credibility of Ofsted and the positive choices made by over 840,000 young people every year. No wonder technical and professional vocational education struggles to gain parity of esteem with traditional academic pathways. Every public statement like this costs us 100s more young would be .apprentices

    • FE Lecturer

      I work in quite a large FE institution that you may be familiar with, and quite frankly it’s a joke. Students are treated as £ signs and staff are treated like rubbish. The drop in students our institution is suffering year after year may be partly due to comments like this, but the main contributing factor is the poor quality education and experience we offer. We have some brilliant front-line staff that have their hands tied by low hours, low morale, poor resources and low pay. We have people earning huge salaries in positions that simply don’t need to exist, while front line staff live in fear of being made redundant to be re-hired for the same job with lower pay and a new title.
      That being said, scrapping the whole FE sector isn’t the answer.
      The problem with the institution I work for is that it’s a private company with a board of directors pushing for maximum profits. Until FE institutions have the goal of educating young people who aren’t right for more academic subjects, and not the goal of profit, they will continue to drop in quality.
      While I agree that someone in this position shouldn’t be suggesting education policy and most likely has an agenda, pretending FE doesn’t have a serious problem is willful ignorance.

        • FE Lecturer

          What exactly to you mean? It’s due to me and my compatriots attitudes that we have low pay, low hours, low morale and poor resources? Or do you mean that it’s because of me and my compatriots that there are a number of highly paid positions without a purpose? Perhaps you mean it’s because of me and my compatriots that students are treated like £s and staff like rubbish?

  24. Howard Scott

    He’s talking shite as usual. Why doesn’t he find something supportive to say, instead of needless generalised critical opinions. The real issue is the lack of investment and the socio-economics that neglects those in FE and reinforces marginalised social groups, but he won’t mention that. Strange, because it is mentioned in the OFSTED annual report.

  25. David Hughes

    The Chief Inspector’s comments undermine any authority the role should hold and are an abuse of his position. Nobody in a public role like his should be allowed to use that position to push personal prejudice. If the evidence exists for his views then they should be share; but that is clearly not the case. He brings shame on Ofsted, shame on an evidence-based way of doing things and most significantly he will get more coverage than this deserves which will once again hit the reputation of FE.
    It will be intreresting to see how Ministers respond to this. The idea that every 16-19 year old should stay in school is so absurd, my only hope is that nobody will take it seriously.

  26. Joel Petrie

    There have been rumours that the next Ofsted Head might be from the USA. Wilshaw appears to have proved with these entirely inaccurate, deeply damaging and ill-advised comments that he is not of this planet, and has no concept whatsoever about how to use evidence, even from his own organisation. If he is not sacked within the week it will be a disgrace.

  27. Robert Brooks

    In all of my time working with employers to help them increase their skills and recruit apprentices, I have yet to come across 1 single decision maker that feels schools prepare young people for the world of work- I work with 300 employers per year that feel my FE college do support their needs and therefore those of the local economy and labour market.
    While, as a secondary school governor, I see the value in school 6th forms, to say that 16-19 year olds should stay in this environment is frankly idiotic; I don’t know many schools that would have the expertise to train construction apprentices or digital media apprentices.

    Given the lack of credibility that Ofsted has at the moment perhaps Sir Michael should remember the adage about glass houses and stones.

  28. Nigel Hartnup

    He’s talking about training, not education. Schools, colleges and universities should be educating a young person. If specific training is needed for particular employment, then it should be the workplace that does it. A well educated person is easily trained.

  29. Norman

    Enough is enough. This moron should be sacked as he is an utter disgrace.

    If he is allowed to wreak havoc until December what will he come out with next

    FE Week AoC why don’t you set up a campaign to get this idiot replaced with immediate effect
    It’s about time we kicked back and show ministers how we feel

  30. Rob Peutrell

    “The FE sector is in a mess – that’s why the government is reviewing it at the moment”. If the FE sector is in a mess it’s largely down to systemic neglect, policy overload and engineered uncertainty. Rather than being motivated by a concern with quality of further and adult provision, the current Area Reviews are essentially cost driven. But what an invitation for the FE sector to shout back and to articulate its own vision of its future. But that would mean honestly admitting to some of its flaws. FE ‘leaders’ embraced the expected freedoms of incorporation and privatisation. The result: divisive competition rather than the collaborative culture we ought to have, along with real-terms pay cuts and unmanageable workloads for ordinary staff, whose views are given little genuine weight.

  31. Mike Farmer

    The question is, will the Education Select committee take any notice of Wilshaw’s comments? Its Chair, Neil Carmichael, has been a governor of two different FE College, one of which is in his own Constituency, Stroud, so he is well aware of the value of the sector. I can say this with some confidence since I was Chair of Governors at the same time. So with a bit of luck the main reputational damage this incident will have inflicted will be on Wilshaw himself rather than on the FE sector.

  32. Paul Stanistreet

    Wilshaw’s comments could be laughed off if it weren’t the case that some ministers and civil servants will take them seriously. It’s particularly disappointing that someone with a responsibility to base his public pronouncements on data his inspectors have collected should depart from the evidence in such an irresponsible way. His comments on the area review process imply that it is a government response to a mess the FE sector has got itself into. This is very far from the truth. Colleges have been subject to year-on-year cuts on an unprecedented scale while weathering a blizzard of government reforms which often have far-reaching negative consequences that ministers do not anticipate. The remarkable thing is that so many have emerged from this in decent financial health and with a strong focus on teaching and learning, despite all the distractions, which include, of course, our overbearing and oppressive accountability regime. I find it astonishing that a sector that does so much good is so poorly understood by those responsible for overseeing it.

  33. Alex Fau-Goodwin

    The FE and Skills sector according to Nicky Morgan is central to the education of young people preparing them for adult life. Many school sixth forms are small, unsustainable, offering a limited range of options, where quality is questionable. Many school teachers have no industry experience, or limited understanding of the skills agenda. As for UTC’s many are failing and pupils are not taking up the places. A glance at the national minimum standards data clearly shows that a significant majority of Colleges are outperforming schools both on vocational and academic standards. I hope the next Chief Inspector takes more time to visit Colleges to truly appreciate, and better understand, the incredible job College staff are doing in changing young peoples lives, many of whom have been rejected by the very schools Mr Wilshaw values so highly.

  34. SENDmum

    FE has to pick up where schools have failed. Students who struggle with English and maths in school are still likely to struggle with these subjects in college either because of poor attitude or learning difficulties. However where FE succeeds (and where schools fail) is their attitude to young people. Treating them like young adults and giving them the opportunity to study what interests them is empowering. I’ve witnessed this with my autistic son. Disempowered by the schooling system that is authoritarian in nature (ie you must study these subjects because the government says so) FE has restored his confidence and given him a second chance at getting an education. He became school phobic and a school refuser due to poor mental health as a result of inadequate support and inflexible overly academic schooling. To force young people like my son to stay in school until 19 is likely to be a disaster not only because school is associated with being told what to do but because of the distress many SEND pupils experience whilst there. College provides a fresh start and the chance to pursue vocational qualifications which is often much more suitable for these young people.

  35. Good to see a unanimous verdict from the sector on the ridiculous views of Wilshaw, including some college principals putting their heads above the parapets. Hopefully Government will do the right thing and put this dinosaur in a museum immediately, replacing him with a temporary head who has not been influenced by Wilshaw. What is clear are that there is no parity in standards of inspection across Ofsted. Time to have a new specialist FE and skills inspectorate that takes the best of the FEFC and ALI. Experienced HMI have been leaving Ofsted in their droves because of the deskilling of inspectors and inspection teams. Ofsted have lost the plot in what they said they would do last September. We were promised ‘short’ inspections where those inspected were told there was no need to prepare, with no more than two HMI carrying them out. What is happening in practice? Yes, no resemblance with teams of four to six inspectors carrying out a full inspection over two days (possibly why the size of the team is not shown in published letters?). Also, every week there are an increasing number of good providers being subjected to full inspections without any reason being given, who then go onto score ‘goods’ across the board? So much for making savings. Of course Wilshaw got rid of the post of head of learning and skills because he does not want any internal opposition to his uninformed views. Give us back an inspectorate that the sector can have confidence in, that keeps its word and that is fit for purpose.

  36. Graham Hoyle OBE

    Unbelievable!! With over half of pupils needing to enter the vocational route between 16-18, (the others always get there eventually – often too late!) Sir Michael thinks the best answer is to keep them in schools! Oh yes and get them to the levels of English and Maths competence that the schools have failed to do during the previous 12 years plus.
    As a Junior school governor I am trying to build a family of schools (pre – school, infants, junior,secondary, 6th form, studio schools) offering a comprehensive ‘run through’ route from 3-18. It will fail if it does not link up with a college/ independent provider to complete the 16+ offerings. A vital link that a school cannot offer/provide.
    A a sad suggestion from Sir Michael.

    • Mike Saunders

      When the Head of OfSTED shows his complete and utter disregard for the most efficient sector of the UK Education system, whilst praising UTC’s which are often failing to provide what they have said they will provide, you know that he has become a political stooge of the Government and the time has come for him to retire. This sort of rubbish from someone whose organisation has had responsibility for assuring the quality of provision in the sector yet has not linked the issues with the massive reduction of funding finally puts the nail in the coffin of OfSTED’s independence.

    • Miss Teacher

      The other issue is child safety-as an FE lecturer myself I would not be happy to have 18/19 year old in the same school as my 11 year old. At the moment the uptake of 16-19 year old’s staying in school is minimal, and most schools have a separate area for the 100 or so who choose to stay in that environment – most choose 6th form colleges or FE colleges in my area where they can widen their social skills and independence, preparing them for the real world. As for the arguement that most do not improve maths and english in their time at a GFC – that’s not what the data is telling us. What this idiot does not allow for is we receive students who got grade E – U at GCSE – no they don’t get a grade C for English in the 9 months we have them, but they do move closer to it!

  37. Paul Smithers

    Just a few thoughts,

    Sir Michael seems to be doing a Beeching, and applying a narrow partisan view of what education should be to the reality of what it is, and, like Beeching he has his brief, to be followed regardless of the wider benefits to society as a whole.

    School teaching is a different pedagogy to ADULT education. They, (the GTC) have said so.

    Schools do not have the range of achievement of the FE sector whether it be academic or vocational.

    This may come as a surprise, perhaps a little less crowing every year about GCSE & A level results and a little more praise for City & Guilds, National Diplomas, Higher National Diplomas, Foundation Degrees and Full degrees would make our critics realise that we are the true educators, educators who make dreams happen.

    We are the ones who are expected to pick up the failures of the state and private sector providers.

    Unlike schools we do not know our final college intake until well into November of each academic year and, as a consequence, managers and staff are continually playing catch up with their program offer and delivery.

    Apprenticeships, their level, range and duration combined with the concomitant supervision of teaching staff by unqualified non professionals is but one of the mundane situations that schools are ill equipped to deal with.

    I would like to see the reaction of school teachers when they have to adapt their teaching day (ie class contact) to the requirements of one dominant local employer (07:30am – 6:30pm Monday to Friday anyone?)and the good cheer with which they would happily accept that their 19 year old students are earning more than they are.

    Does Sir Michael seriously expect to place nineteen year old ‘pupils’ on the same school playground as fourteen year old students? what is going to be the effect on school discipline when post 18 year old students assert their right to be treated as adults?.

    At the risk of pointing out the obvious, the end result is not favourable for the secondary education sector.

    Wages are now so low in the FE sector that employers are seriously proposing contractual terms that will make it difficult for a teacher to leave their place of employment for better terms and conditions elsewhere.

    Slavery is what happens when people will not work for the wages on offer (watch this space)

  38. Having studied Wilshaw’s increasingly politicised and skewed headlines in each of his successive Annual Inspection Reports since 2012, one begins to see a disturbing divide between fact and fiction. It lets down the hard work, dedication and good sense of many of his OFSTED colleagues who have privately and – when allowed – publicly praised the FE sector for doing so much with so little. With 77% of FE colleges good or better at their last inspection vs 78% independent providers (including employers), he isn’t seriously suggesting we should remove employers from running post-16 provision, so why should FE be singled out? Whilst I agree that maths and English are so vital in today’s modern economy, these skills have always been important – look back at the last 30 years of government papers and reports on ‘the skills economy’ for a refresh – and yet in one year (since by the way many GCSE resits will be taught in just 60 hours of FE contact time) FE colleges have been asked to do what the state secondary systems have been unable to do in 5 years. This alone represents a gross miscalculation of strategy. The notion that schools, with shrinking budgets – even privileged academies such as Mossbourne – are best placed to teach vocational subjects such as hair & beauty, motor vehicle, aeronautics, construction, engineering etc, is so divorced from our working reality, that Wilshaw’s judgement – and those he represents – must be held to account by those charged with leading the education sector. We have Lord Andrew Adonis speaking at this year’s National FE conference, 24th March 2016, who ‘appointed’ Michael Wilshaw to Mossbourne, so come along and put your questions to him! My surmise is, that unless the right person is in place as Chief Inspector next time around, then OFSTED will be one leg short of a three-legged stool and will be counting its days.

  39. Corrina Hembury

    Wow, what a huge response from so many passionate and committed FE supporters! Nothing really for me to add other than wondering about the reaction SMW gets in 2 weeks at the AAC Conference ….

  40. Neil Corfield

    I see that this one shoe fits all approach is clearly working. Secondary education has prevailed once again. Has he not stopped to think why these learners either choose not to continue in school or seek alternative approaches to education. The political stance is complete buffoonery, reinstate the chalk board and some rote learning should be the panacea for education, alongside poorly informed government officials and large state pension pay offs.

  41. Veronica Maher

    I am sure local employers such as engineering, hospitality and health and social care will not agree. FE plays a vital part in the preparation of young people for employment. I have 3 boys who all went through the modern apprenticeship scheme in close collaberation with the local FE college years ago, they now in senior positions in a prestigious engineering company. FE gives them the experience of real life in the adult world…not school! As an FE teacher I know where all my learners go, a great number enter HE where BTEC for example is still highly regarded as an entry to HE. I am not saying we don’t have our challenges, we cannot be compared to dedicated 6th form colleges whose learners are destined for premier universities. One size does not fit all, the playing field in 16-19 education is definitely not a level one.

  42. This man really needs to think before he opens his mouth and read the reports that his inspectors write. I work in a Grade 1 outstanding FE college where all the staff are passionate teachers and put the students at the heart of what we do. We, like many FE colleges have students from age 14+. Many of the students who come to us have been excluded from secondary schools but thrive, succeed and progress through to HE courses. I cannot imagine how students in our area would benefit if they were under the regime of Mr Wilshaw’s ‘cluster’ schools. Of the 8 local secondary schools in the vicinity of the college, 2 have been graded as good, 4 have been graded as Satisfactory and 1 graded as inadequate…. do they really have a chance to succeed?
    I dropped out of secondary school and if it had not been for FE colleges I would not be where I am today. Mr Wilshaw needs to spend his last few working months in FE colleges and observe for himself the fantastic work that is being done on an ever decreasing budget.

  43. Lesley Ellis

    Sir Michael, It is shameful that in your position as Chief Inpector, you considered it appropriate to express your personal opinions during a parliamentary session. You have shown a complete lack of integrity and very poor judgement, which could well be your legacy when you retire.

  44. Nikki Gilbey

    What is so sad is that we could all tell countless tales of individual students who have absolutely flourished within our FE colleges. Students who were excluded from school, who would not engage with education in any way who have found a safe home in colleges and have been able to develop not only their technical skills but also their self confidence, communications skills and, of course, maths and English. But these are not just a handful of examples we could scatter around Mr Wilshaw, these examples cover thousands of young men and women who will one day make up part of the adult population of this country. They are contributing positively to society and have found meaningful employment after 2 or more years in one of our great organisations. Why is the school setting right for would be tree surgeons, or farmers, or florists or gardeners? It isn’t, but he hasn’t considered an already marginalised section of society already – the disengaged by vocationally talented kids we see on a daily basis. Remember that Mr Wilshaw when you are tucking into your breakfast, lunch and dinner…all of it raised, grown and harvested by farmers who in all likelyhood didn’t fit your mould and went to college.

  45. Karen Redhead

    The remit of Ofsted has become way too large and a single common framework covering from cradle to grave frankly does not work. It might be an unpalatable suggestion in times of austerity cuts but we need to go back to a post-16 inspectorate that truly understands the skills agenda, including apprenticeships, traineeships and working with the long-term unemployed. I’m not surprised that we have lost many good senior Ofsted HMIs. I have worked with post-16 inspectorates for 26 years, including HMIs pre-incorporation, FEFC, ALI and Ofsted. The current setup is the worst we’ve ever had. We can never be confident that the inspectorate team will have the relevant background, expertise and skills to make such important judgements on what we do. Wilshaw himself, in the increasingly risible, incredulous and outrageous public statements he is making about the FE sector, demonstrates that someone with a narrow school-based background, coupled with his reluctance to learn more by actually visiting colleges to see our life-changing work, is ill equipped to lead this organisation.

  46. Wilshaw is probably right about FE curriculum and here is some evidence to support his position https://www.fenews.co.uk/fe-news/the-problematic-shaping-of-the-plumbing-curriculum and… https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/15728

    We need to start facing up the fact that many employer-designed qualifications are not fit-for-purpose and the FE curriculum is in a mess!


    However, it is unfair of Wilshaw to lay all the blame at the door of FE. It was OFSTED who took public money but they were incompetent in missing a key factor in vocational teaching and learning i.e. the importance of a coherent, relevant and integrated curriculum.

  47. Paul Cox

    Opinions expressed in this way are disrespectful for those studying and working in the sector. Comments like this will undoubtedly influence inspectors making judgements in FE College’s this week and in the months to come until Sir Michael’s retirement.

    I write this as I also see HE institutions are sitting on ~£1.8bn surplus, imagine the quality and standards that could be further improved if the education sector as a whole had funding equality.

    FE changes lives, supports employers and ensures that communities can become stronger by develop knowledge and higher skills.

  48. FE Lecturer

    There is no fool like an old fool. I suggest the education committee ignore his biased and uninformed opinion and take advice from people who have worked in both an FE college and industry and understand how the two work together.
    The FE sector clearly has no confidence in his leadership or indeed the whole farcical process of OFSTED inspections at FE colleges.
    Colleges are now being managed and run to please OFSTED with students, employers and staff being considered to be of secondary importance. They are starved of cash by a government that does not understand how FE could contribute towards their own plans for productivity improvement.

  49. Mike Snell

    The comments in response to the Chief Inspector’s ill informed opinion of FE are hard to disagree with. My concern is the lack of organised political leadership of the sector, a long standing problem. Without a strong, unified and consistent FE voice countering the often abusive views of ‘important’ people, the sector stands little chance of surviving the current onslaught. Who will stand up and fight for the sector that does more for 16-19 year olds than all the secondary schools put together?

  50. 6th form teach

    So…there are currently sixth form area reviews happening, which seem to aim to amalgamate smaller colleges into huge 5-10,000 plus students. Yet Wilshaw comes out publicly saying huge FE colleges are failing students. The world had gone mad! Make your minds up!!!

  51. TriciaFras

    I am just so appalled with this that I cannot express my thoughts. I invite him to teach for a week in an F.E. college including all the sudden time-table changes, short notice cover, pastoral duties, marking, tracking etc etc …he wouldn’t last a day!

  52. TeeJay

    Why waste time thinking- he’s the one who should be thinking. He’s not going to read the feedback anyway but someone close to him should let him know he’s just stepped on the cobra’s tail…

  53. Paul O'Neill

    Politically typical – cause a mess and then blame everyone else.

    If everyone (including schools) was not jumping to the latest demand from Ofsted and the Government (including the other hangers on such as Dave’s old mate Doug with his Apprentice review) then perhaps they could do what they are supposed to.

    It’s a pity that the FE Week headlines can’t cover someone in power who knows what they are talking about – but I don’t think that person exists.

    • Why is it that we have an education system controlled by a police force? How much more effective could our education system be if the inspection bodies acted as a health service instead? There was a time not so long ago, under the previous system, when the inspectors who visited a school would actually be a part of the process of change. If a school was found wanting the inspectors would stay and help that institution’s managers to bring about the necessary changes. Nobody lost their jobs, reputations or even lives and teaching and learning flourished in a less stressed and more productive environment.

  54. Pete Duckworth

    That’s really shocking.

    It explains some of the vile OfSted reports on the sector.

    What a shame they can’t recognise how FE College’s rescue learners that the schools have let down…