Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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Ofsted proposes changes to inspection of further education and skills to improve learners’ employability

Ofsted today launches a consultation on proposals to revise the inspection of further education (FE) colleges, work-based learning providers, adult and community learning (ACL) provision and ‘Next Step’ provision.

All inspections of the FE and skills sector in England are based on Ofsted’s Common Inspection Framework for FE and skills. Changes will streamline and simplify this framework and focus it more sharply on the areas that have most impact.

Revision will mean fewer judgements that focus more sharply on the core purpose of the provider in meeting the needs and interests of learners, employers and the community. Reports will show more clearly whether learners are on appropriate courses and how well learners are supported to achieve their qualifications and progress on to higher education or employment.  Inspectors will spend more time observing lessons or training sessions.

Ofsted will consult widely on the revised framework to seek views on the detail of how changes will be implemented. Proposals will be tested and evaluated during the latter part of 2011 and the first half of 2012 with regular information published on the Ofsted website as revised arrangements develop.

Launching the consultation, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Miriam Rosen said:

“Our current inspection framework has been in place since September 2009 and feedback from providers has been positive. Our proposals today build on this experience and will give inspectors the chance to take an even closer look at the elements that have the biggest impact on improving standards for learners and increasing their job prospects. 

“We want inspectors to spend an even greater proportion of their time observing lessons and training sessions. We propose to develop an even stronger focus on how well staff teach and how well learners progress and achieve results.

“We want the views of everyone with an interest in further education and skills to help us to shape the way providers are inspected.”

Inspectors will spend more of their time visiting weaker providers and giving them clear recommendations on what they need to do improve. Ofsted will decide who to inspect depending on risk. Outstanding providers will not be inspected unless their performance deteriorates (as requested by the government and as part of the Education Bill currently passing through parliament). 

The consultation can be accessed online at or requested from the Ofsted enquiry service by calling 0300 123 4234.

From September 2012 Ofsted proposes that learning and skills inspections will:

  • report on the quality of provision in the further education and skills sector, and judge the overall effectiveness of the providers we inspect
  • focus on the outcomes for learners, the quality of the teaching, and how well the provision is lead and managed
  • report on the extent to which the provision meets the needs of learners, helping them to achieve their potential and progress into employment or further education and training
  • promote higher standards for learners by focusing more on the quality of teaching.

Ofsted also proposes to:

  • assess the performance and other risk factors of all providers on an annual basis in order to make fully informed decisions about when a provider should be inspected
  • target inspection to bring about more rapid improvement in providers judged to be inadequate
  • inspect providers previously judged as good within six years of their last inspection
  • take greater account of the views of learners, employers, parents and carers in deciding when a provider should be inspected
  • strengthen monitoring and inspection of satisfactory providers including the introduction of the possibility of unannounced monitoring inspections of some providers who have failed to improve over a number of inspections.

It is proposed to cease:

  • the routine inspection of most providers judged outstanding at their last inspection unless their performance drops

In October Ofsted will also be consulting on a new framework for inspecting residential accommodation in further education colleges. 

Notes to editors

  1. The consultation will be open for 12 weeks from 1 September 2011 and will close on 24 November 2011.  Views of providers and stakeholders will be gathered through a series of events and meetings including AoC and AELP conferences in the autumn term. The revised framework will be piloted in the autumn 2011 and spring 2012 terms and will be published summer 2012 for implementation in September 2012.
  2. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.
  3. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 020 7421 5911 or via Ofsted's enquiry line 0300 1231231 between 8.30am - 6.00pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359

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