Some ‘outstanding’ colleges which have improved since their last inspection may still be downgraded because the bar has been raised under the latest Ofsted inspection framework.
That’s according to Chris Russell, the watchdog’s national director of education, who has said if a previously grade one college receives a ‘good’ grade, it “doesn’t mean that the school [or college] has declined in recent years. In fact, the opposite can be the case.”
He said this was because the top grade is a “challenging and exacting judgment to achieve” under the new education inspection framework (EIF).
The comments follow Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman saying a drop to around one in ten schools being ‘outstanding’, half the current rate, “might be a more realistic starting point for the system”.
There are currently 16 general FE colleges with a grade one, five of which have gone more than decade without inspection.
Asked whether the chief inspector expected a similar proportion of colleges as schools to drop from ‘outstanding’, an Ofsted spokesperson said: “We can’t know what the final picture will look like, and any judgments will, of course, be rooted in the evidence we find.
“Some providers may be found to be ‘outstanding’, but given the length of time that has passed, others may not.”
‘Outstanding’ education providers are being inspected this term for the first time since 2010, after an exemption was removed last year.
It will be the first time ‘outstanding’ providers are inspected under the EIF, which was introduced in 2019.
Russell, in a video posted this week, said there was “no doubt that under the current education inspection framework, ‘outstanding’ is a challenging and exacting judgment to achieve”.
“So it does mean, I think, that you need to be very careful, if, for example, a school [or college] that has been judged ‘outstanding’ a good many years ago is inspected again and judged to be ‘good’.
“That doesn’t mean that the school [or college] has declined in recent years. In fact, the opposite can be the case, so very important, I think, in those circumstances, to read the inspection report really carefully, to get a really good view of how good it is now and how well the school [or college] is doing.”
In a blog published on Wednesday morning he added that the drop in standards in some schools and colleges may have been several years ago, with schools and colleges now improving again. “So it’s important not to view the loss of an ‘outstanding’ grade too negatively,” he added.
Twenty-three reports relating to ‘outstanding’ schools were published yesterday. Of those, 19 were graded. Almost three in four, 17, lost their grade one.
Ofsted declined to comment on whether any ‘outstanding’ colleges have received an inspection so far this term.’