Consultation on more proportionate inspection for further education launched

Short inspections for the best colleges, and a more robust approach to those colleges that are failing or which are satisfactory but not improving, are proposed in a consultation document launched by Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education) today.

Proportionate inspection of further education colleges: a consultation document proposes that the best colleges will receive a short inspection of one or two days’ duration, leading to a short inspection report, as an alternative to a full inspection. Up to 30% of colleges may be included in the short inspection approach.

If colleges are judged outstanding or good as a result of inspection, they will not be inspected for four years providing that high performance is maintained. Currently, all colleges are visited every year. Annual assessment visits were introduced for all colleges in September 2005, as a means of undertaking a ‘health check’ in addition to the four year inspection cycle. All outstanding and good colleges will still be subject to annual desk monitoring by inspectors to check performance.

In addition, the Quality Improvement Agency (QIA) will be invited to consider supporting those colleges which are judged ‘satisfactory but not improving’. Around 12-15 per cent of colleges currently fall into this category. Annual monitoring visits will also be used to assess the degree of progress in making more significant improvement in these colleges.

Satisfactory colleges will continue to have a significant proportion of their work inspected on a four year cycle. Colleges in this category will also receive an annual monitoring visit from inspectors. Shortened timescales for the re-inspection of inadequate provision are also proposed. Inadequate colleges will receive a monitoring visit 6-9 months after inspection, followed by a full re-inspection after 12-15 months.

John Landeryou, Ofsted’s Post-16 Divisional Manager, said:

“Ofsted recognises that further education sector performance is improving, with learner success rates now averaging 75%, compared to 60% in 2001. Today’s proposals will mean a further move towards greater self-regulation for the FE sector, in recognition of this success and in line with the recommendations of the FE white paper.”

Ofsted piloted the short inspections in outstanding colleges in the autumn term.

Jonathan Burnett, principal of Truro College, welcomed the approach, saying:

“We are delighted that the recent report confirms that we continue to provide an excellent quality of education for all our students. We welcome the new style of assessing our performance and the willingness of Ofsted to treat high quality institutions which assess themselves honestly and rigorously as grown up partners in the process.”

Fiona McMillan OBE, principal of Bridgwater College, said:

“We feel that this new style of inspection is very appropriate and fair for an organisation like ours which has a long standing record of excellence, and very thorough self-assessment and continuous improvement processes.”

Dr Rob Wilkinson, principal of Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge, said:

"We welcome Ofsted's new approach, and the move towards greater self-regulation that it represents. With a track-record of outstanding provision and continuous improvement, we were happy for Hills Road to be among the first colleges to experience this new process. We were delighted that the inspection outcome so closely matched our own assessment of the college's strengths."

A copy of the consultation will be sent to all colleges. The key stakeholders below will also be invited to provide a response.

  • The Association of Colleges
  • Learning and Skills Council
  • CBI
  • IoD
  • Sector Skills Councils
  • Quality Improvement Agency
  • Further Education National Learner Panel
  • Unions representing teachers who work in further education
  • National Union of Students

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Notes for Editors

1. Proportionate inspection of further education colleges: a consultation document is published at 00.01am Friday 12 January 2007.

2. Ofsted is a non-ministerial government department established under the Education (Schools) Act 1992 to take responsibility for the inspection of all schools in England. Its role also includes the inspection of further education, local authority children's services, teacher training institutions and some independent schools. During 2001, Ofsted became responsible for inspecting all 16-19 education and for the regulation of early years childcare, including childminders.

3. On 1 April 2007, the new Ofsted will take responsibility for inspecting children's social care from the Commission for Social Care Inspection, inspecting adult learning from the Adult Learning Inspectorate, and inspecting the Children and Family Courts Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Court Administration, in addition to Ofsted's current responsibilities.