Ofsted has bagged an extra £24 million from government to inspect every school, college and further education provider by summer 2025.
For colleges specifically, they will receive a full inspection from September 2022 regardless of whether they are rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. These colleges would typically receive a short inspection.
The inspections will also be “enhanced” to take account of “local skills needs”, in line with proposals set our in the skills for jobs white paper.
Ofsted said the decision to accelerate inspections has been made to give a quicker assessment of how well education is recovering from the pandemic.
Without the new cash, funded through the spending review, it would have taken a further year for all schools, colleges and providers to be completed, according to a spokesperson.
Chief inspector Amanda Spielman expanded on the announcement at today’s Association of Colleges conference.
She said: “I’m confident that this is a positive development and one that will be welcomed by the sector. It followed discussions with the DfE about how inspection can respond to the focus on local skills needs.
“I’m in favour of assessing the extent to which colleges have regard to local skills. We’ve had concerns about mismatches in the past between courses that are popular and courses that really open doors. There is a moral imperative here on two fronts – both to help the economy thrive and to present students with realistic pathways.”
Spielman added: “It’s really important that we get a true feel for the local economy so we can properly consider the contribution of colleges. This work clearly doesn’t lend itself to light-touch inspection. We need full inspections, with some enhancements, which I’m pleased government has recognised.”
The chief inspector said Ofsted has already started to pilot its methodologies for inspecting skills needs, and the watchdog will be seeking the sector’s input.
FE Week understands Ofsted is on a recruitment drive to hire between 18 and 25 new inspectors to build capacity for the accelerated inspections of colleges and other FE providers.
Following today’s announcement, Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders warned “the government has some strange ideas about the priority for education recovery”.
She said the “government hasn’t committed anything like the level of investment which is needed” to deliver recovery programmes at the scale provided. The prospect of having “deal with a visit from an inspection team isn’t particularly helpful” when schools and colleges are still dealing with pandemic disruption, she added.