Ministers have commissioned Ofsted to review skills bootcamps – but there will continue to be no full inspections of the flagship training scheme unless they become a “rolling programme”.
A thematic survey will look into the quality of education and the curriculum of the bootcamps, which last up to 16 weeks and are for adults aged over 19 who are either employed or unemployed. Skills bootcamps are one of the government’s key initiatives in its Plan for Jobs announced last year.
Ofsted’s survey will be based on methodology from their FE and skills inspection handbook. A spokesperson for the inspectorate said: “This approach will help us to understand and evaluate education and training provision, looking at developments nationally, and highlighting good practice as well as areas for improvement.”
Bootcamps could be routinely inspected if they are a rolling programme
FE Week revealed earlier this year, ahead of their national rollout in April 2021, that providers of skills bootcamps would not be subject to Ofsted inspections.
Instead, suppliers bidding to run the provision would need to evidence that training will be high quality, that it meets in-demand skill needs, and that they have their own “strong” quality assurance and continuous improvement processes in place.
The DfE confirmed today that skills bootcamps would only fall under the scope for routine inspection “if and when” they become a rolling programme with regular funding.
This is subject to funding of Ofsted, and comes as the bootcamps are still in wave two of their trailblazer stage, the DfE said.
Bootcamp contracts lasting up to three years were handed out in two lots, each worth £18 million, to suppliers across the country last year.
Over half of bootcamp providers not inspected
FE Week analysis has found 57 per cent, or 19, of the 33 bootcamp providers have neither had a full inspection by Ofsted, nor are they listed on the watchdog’s website as waiting for an inspection.
Those not covered by Ofsted inspections include local enterprise partnerships, a number of private companies delivering bootcamps, and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.
Ofsted has insisted the survey visits to providers will “not be the same as an inspection,” as they will only look at the provision and will not make judgements about the provider.
The results will be used to “build a national picture of how bootcamps are working,” and will be reported to the DfE. Survey visits will be carried out between December 2021 and March 2022, with a report set to be published in September 2022.
Skills bootcamps, in areas as varied as digital skills and construction, are one of the two pillars of the £2.5 billion National Skills Fund announced by prime minister Boris Johnson last year, along with the new level 3 entitlement.
The DfE announced over the weekend the bootcamp model would be used to train up 3,000 more heavy goods vehicle drivers, amid a national shortage.