Old Cif or new Cif? Early indications of impact on inspection judgments

With a few months of the new Ofsted Common Inspection Framework (Cif) under the sector’s belt, Paul Joyce outlines some common issues.

While it is true to say that a change in framework places a different emphasis on inspection judgements, it is important to remember that a framework is just that — a framework.

Ofsted inspections have always been focused on the impact the provision has on outcomes for learners. Regardless of the framework, if the quality of provision is not good enough and learners are not making progress or achieving as well as they should, then inspection reports say so and this is reflected in the grades awarded.

Ofsted seeks to raise standards and improve the life chances of all learners through the inspection and improvement work completed.

Providers that concentrate on doing their best for all their learners everyday have nothing to fear from inspection — regardless of the framework.

If a provider is to receive a good or outstanding rating it is crucial that they understand the requirements of the type of provision being offered and the individual learning needs of students on these programmes.

Many providers have been slow to adapt the curriculum offer to enable a study programme approach

The most significant change between the old and new framework is the move away from grading sector subject areas in favour of grading types of provision.

A particular challenge for many providers remains the quality of 16 to 19 study programmes. The intention of this type of provision is to enable learners to progress to a planned goal or destination. While achieving a qualification may well be a part of that journey it is unlikely that will be the intended final outcome.

The key to successful study programmes is therefore to establish clearly learners’ aspirations and their career intentions and to plan a learning and development programme accordingly.

Providers need to establish learners’ starting points based on prior attainment information and thorough initial assessment.

Study programmes must be flexible to enable different learners to develop the necessary skills, knowledge and attributes needed for their intended progression route.

A good study programme will consider what additional learning and development each individual needs in order to achieve their goal.

Many providers have been slow to adapt the curriculum offer to enable a study programme approach.

In too many providers inspectors see a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach where almost all learners follow the same timetable and attend the same learning and development sessions and progress to their next step at the same time.

While this may well be appropriate for the substantive qualification that learners are likely to be studying, for many learners, attending the same English and maths learning sessions, completing the same additional qualifications or non-qualification activity and attending the same work-related learning activity or work experience placement may not be appropriate.

A provider’s curriculum offer is vitally important. Providers need to have a clear rationale for the range of provision they offer. Successful study programmes usually exist where providers have strong links with employers and offer courses that are aligned to local and regional skills priorities.

Productive working relationships between providers and employers ensure that the content of each learning programme is appropriate to meet current business needs. In the best provision, employers get involved in the design and delivery of courses, especially with regard to the work experience or work-related learning element of study programme provision.

High quality careers advice and guidance is crucial. Students need to know the full range of options that are available to them and be able to make informed choices. Advice and guidance should be focused on progression and end goals and not simply on achieving an individual qualification.

While qualification achievement remains one measure of success, the true success measure of a study programme is the learners’ destination. Providers need to know if the learner progressed to their intended destination or achieved their goal as a way of measuring the quality and success of the study programmes offered.

Ensuring that study programmes are of high quality remains a considerable challenge for many providers. However, the key to achieving a good inspection outcome is ensuring that the provision enables all learners to progress and achieve as well as they can and that remains as true under the new Cif as it was under the old.

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