Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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Raising expectations for adult learners

A revised framework for the inspection of the further education and skills sector was launched today by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted).

The framework continues to place a strong focus on learners’ achievements and includes more emphasis on the capacity of providers to make and sustain improvements, so raising expectations for all learners. Inspectors will explore how well organisation leaders and managers promote high ambitions amongst their learners and staff, while arrangements to safeguard learners and promote equality and diversity will receive closer scrutiny.

Inspectors will spend more time listening to learners and employers, placing a greater focus on how their needs are being met by providers. This will be done on site and by conducting telephone interviews, and encouraging learners and employers to send views directly to Ofsted via email. Inspections will place more emphasis on a wider range of learner outcomes, such as the impact of learning on their economic and social well-being. New-style inspection reports will include a summary for learners and employers and feature recommendations on what the provider should do to make further improvements.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector for Education, Children’s Services and Skills, Christine Gilbert, said: “The new framework has an increased focus on the progress made by different groups of learners, ensuring our inspections focus on how providers support all learners to fulfil their potential.

'We will spend more time observing teaching and learning, and listening to learners and employers to ensure that their needs are being met. We will also target our inspections where they have the most impact on improvement.'

There will be a stronger focus on evaluating the impact of teaching, learning and assessment on the progress and development of all learners. Inspectors will look closely at how providers are meeting the individual needs of learners and employers and how far they provide value for money.

From September, when the framework is introduced, a more risk proportionate approach to inspection will be adopted, enabling inspectors to focus efforts where they will have the greatest impact. If a provider’s performance is weak or faltering, it could be inspected more frequently than every four years. Better performing providers may have up to six years between full inspections providing they do not give cause for concern. Focused monitoring visits will be used to explore specific aspects of a provider’s work.

Providers will be given shorter notice of inspection, typically two to three weeks, and the length of inspection will be between three and five days. Focused monitoring visits will last between one and three days. The four point grading scale (‘inadequate’ to ‘outstanding’) for full inspections remains. However, the increased focus on safeguarding, and equality and diversity means grades may be limited if there are weaknesses in these areas.

Developed after two rounds of pilot inspections, online and face-to-face consultation events, and discussions with users and other stakeholders, the new approach takes into account feedback from learners, employers, and providers, funding bodies, local authorities and inspectors. More detailed information on the new inspection framework will be available at the end of July, with the publication of the new inspection handbook for providers and inspectors.

Notes for Editors

1. The new framework will be available from the press office and will be online on the Ofsted website at

2. The following organisations and provision funded through the Learning and Skills Council and successor bodies will be inspected under the new arrangements.


  • further education colleges, sixth form colleges and independent specialist colleges
  • independent learning providers
  • local authorities
  • employers
  • not-for-profit organisations
  • higher education institutions providing further education.


  • education and training for learners aged 16-18 and 19+
  • apprenticeships and Train to Gain
  • informal adult learning
  • nextstep
  • learning provision in the judicial services
  • employability programmes.

The new framework will also apply to all inspections of Department for Work and Pensions funded provision from September and the revised inspection methodology will be phased in as the new employability programmes are developed.

3. 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 rates council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

4. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 020 7421 6899 or via Ofsted's enquiry line 08456 404040 between 8.30am - 6.30pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359.