Ofsted now inspects over 2,000 FE providers, and 5 other findings from latest inspection data

The number of further education providers in scope for Ofsted inspection has surpassed the 2,000-mark, new data released today has revealed.

And the proportion of providers judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ has slightly increased two percentage points to 83 per cent – but this is mainly due to poor performing providers losing their funding.

The stats were revealed by the watchdog in its published management information on inspections conducted in the 2020/21 academic year, which was heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Here are the key findings…

Provider numbers continue to grow…

England has seen the number of providers publicly funded to deliver further education, training and/or apprenticeships rocket since the government apprenticeship reforms in 2018.

As of 31 August 2021, there were 2,053 further education and skills providers publicly funded. This is 181 more than on 31 August 2020 and 885 more than on 31 August 2017.

Between 31 August 2020 and 31 August 2021, an additional 307 providers started delivering FE provision, according to today’s Ofsted release.

Over the same period, the watchdog stopped reporting on 126 providers because they either merged, ceased to be funded or stopped delivering.

The additional 307 providers include 273 independent learning providers (including employer providers) and 26 higher education institutions. All but 25 of the independent learning providers are delivering apprenticeships. All of the additional higher education institutions are delivering level 6 and 7 apprenticeships, which Ofsted became responsible for inspecting on 1 April 2021.

Interestingly, of the 126 providers that stopped being subject to Ofsted inspection, 44 providers started and stopped receiving funding the inspectorate could carry out any form of inspection.

…but college numbers continue to fall

The number of general further education colleges has fallen further, and now sits at 163 – five less than in August 2020.

Ofsted said this is mainly due to established colleges merging to form new entities – which leads to their old inspection grades being wiped clean.

As previously revealed by FE Week, two national colleges have closed over the past 12 months and been taken over by other institutions.

Just 44 full inspections were carried out last year

During 2020/21, full inspections were only able to take place during the last three months, between June and August.

All of these were to independent learning providers, including employer providers, that had not previously been inspected.

Of these, four were judged ‘outstanding’, 26 were judged ‘good’, 12 received ‘requires improvement’ and two were judged ‘inadequate’.

But almost 230 new provider monitoring visits were conducted

In between the national lockdowns, Ofsted continued with new provider monitoring visits as these were “deemed to be the highest priority”.

Of the 229 visits carried out in 2020/21, just over three quarters (76 per cent) were judged to be making at least ‘reasonable progress’ in all themes. Ofsted said this was unchanged from 2019/20.

The watchdog judged 19 per cent to be making ‘insufficient progress’ in at least one theme, however – a judgement which typically triggers the Education and Skills Funding Agency to suspend the provider from starting new apprentices.

Proportion of FE providers with the top 2 grades bumped up

On 31 August 2021, 52 per cent of the 2,053 further education and skills providers had received a full inspection.

Of these, 83 per cent were judged to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, an increase of two percentage points from 31 August 2020.

Ofsted said this increase is mainly as a result of providers judged ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ no longer being in scope for inspection.

Usually, this is because either the provider has lost its funding to deliver public education or has closed.

Apprenticeship quality slightly improves

On 31 August 2021, there were 1,598 providers funded and delivering apprenticeships in Ofsted’s systems.

Of these, 1,175 (74 per cent) had a judgement made on the quality of their apprenticeship provision at the time of their full inspection or new provider monitoring visit.

In total, 81 per cent of the 1,175 were judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ at their full inspection or were judged to be making at least ‘reasonable progress’ at their new provider monitoring visit – a two percentage point increase from the previous year.

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