Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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Proposals would focus inspections where they have the greatest impact, says Ofsted consultation

The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) launched a new consultation document yesterday that proposed a more focused approach to inspection of the further education (FE) and skills system.

Under the new proposals, Ofsted would focus inspections on providers and issues which would have the greatest impact on improving outcomes for learners. The frequency and type of inspection would be guided by the perceived capacity of colleges and other providers to improve.

Most providers will generally have an inspection every four years, but for high performers the time between inspections could be up to six years. If a provider’s performance is weak or faltering, or if a provider is new, they could be inspected more frequently than every four years.

A Focus on Improvement: Proposals for FE and skills system inspections from September 2009, reflects the national trend towards greater self regulation.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert said:

“The current cycle of inspections for colleges, work-based learning providers and nextstep comes to an end in the summer of 2009. Ofsted has therefore reviewed arrangements for FE and skills inspections, to ensure they are well matched to the needs of users and the quality of the service, and that they develop our ability to target inspection where they will make the most difference.”

She adds: “Our proposals for a revised Common Inspection Framework, and for the inspection of colleges, work-based learning and nextstep provision from September 2009, are set out in this consultation document. Our aim is to focus our efforts where they have the greatest impact on outcomes for learners.”

The proposals are designed to increase the impact of Ofsted inspections and make them more coherent, rigorous and targeted. They have been informed by discussions with learners, employers, providers, partners and stakeholders during the past year.

The new approach will be piloted during the autumn and spring terms with selected colleges and providers. The consultation will run for three months, with the final version of the proposals to be implemented in September 2009.

Main proposals for change

  • Inspections will be tailored more to the performance of colleges and providers. All colleges and providers judged to be satisfactory in their last inspection will be inspected at least every four years. Colleges and providers judged to be inadequate will receive a re-inspection monitoring visit within 6-8 months of the previous inspection to assess progress. This will be followed by a full re-inspection 6-7 months later.
  • High performing colleges and providers will be inspected less frequently, but, as a minimum, within six years. A ‘health check’ report will be published three years after the last full inspection.
  • Ofsted will use focused monitoring visits to inspect specific aspects of the provision offered by those colleges and providers who are judged to be satisfactory and not improving. These visits will also be used to inspect any college or provider which has significant changes to the range or quality of aspects of its provision. Focused monitoring visits will include a review of a college’s or provider’s capacity to improve.
  • Inspectors will take account of a wider range of published performance data and information, including the Framework for Excellence measures, in deciding when a college or provider needs to be inspected.
  • There will be increased focus on the progress made by different groups of learners, which will include those most likely to underachieve, the most vulnerable and the most able. The outcomes for learners, the quality of learning and the quality of teaching, training and assessment will feature strongly in the inspection.
  • Inspectors will focus on the capacity of the college or provider to improve
  • Ofsted will continue to place a strong focus on self-assessment and the engagement of a nominee in the inspection process
  • Inspectors will report explicitly on whether the college or provider offers good value for money.
  • Ofsted would like to reduce notice periods to the shortest practicable length and will explore whether ‘no notice’ inspections are feasible.

How the consultation will work

Ofsted intends to consult with learners, employers, teaching and training professionals, managers, governing bodies, and other stakeholders as the proposals develop.

There will be a variety of pilot inspections over the coming academic year, starting this autumn, involving colleges, work-based training providers and nextstep providers. The pilots will be evaluated and the outcomes will be made available at various conferences, on the Ofsted website and in our publications.

What will Ofsted do with the outcome of the consultation?

As a result of the evidence gathered from the pilots and the views expressed by people during the consultation, Ofsted will draw up guidance saying how we intend to change the way inspections are conducted and inspectors will be trained in the new arrangements.

Ofsted welcomes responses to its consultation paper and the questions are included at the end of the document. People should submit their comments using the online responses form available at www.ofsted.gov.uk. The consultation will be open until 26 January 2009.

Related links

Notes for Editors

  1. A Focus on Improvement: Proposals for FE and skills system inspections from September 2009 can be found on the Ofsted website www.ofsted.gov.uk
  2. Inspection provides an independent, external evaluation of the quality and standards of a college or provider. It is about raising standards and improving the outcomes for learners and the quality of their lives. The published inspection report tells the college or provider, learners, employers and the wider community about the quality of education and training at the college or provider and whether learners achieve as much as they can. The findings from the inspection set out what the college or provider needs to do to improve.
  3. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects registered childcare and children's social care, including adoption and fostering agencies, residential schools, family centres and homes for children. It also inspects all state maintained schools, non-association independent schools, pupil referral units, further education, initial teacher education, and publicly funded adult skills and employment-based training, the Children and Family Courts Advisory Service (Cafcass), and the overall level of services for children in local authority areas (through annual performance assessments and joint area reviews).
  4. The Ofsted Press Office can be contacted on 08456 4040404 between 8am – 6pm Monday – Friday. During evenings and weekends we can be reached on 07919 057359.

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