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Minor updates to further education and skills inspection handbook

At Ofsted we’re very aware of all the changes taking place in the sector and appreciate that there are challenges ahead. I know Area Reviews and apprenticeships reforms are uppermost in many minds.

But I’d like to assure everyone that we’re continually working with the sector and government to ensure our inspection practice and handbooks reflect the changes being made.

We’ve made a few adjustments to the inspection handbook that came into effect this September, which have arisen from wider government or Ofsted policy changes.

Crucially none of the amendments impact on the way in which we reach our inspection judgements.


Key changes at a glance

Throughout the handbook there’s some minor editing, updating and clarification.

Paragraph 15 of the handbook has been added to clarify that the inspections that newly merged colleges receive within three years of a merger will be full inspections and apply to any kind of merger between colleges. The college won’t be graded until it’s had its full inspection.

Paragraphs and pages in the handbook have been amended to explain:

  • sixteen to 19 academies/free schools that are re-brokered for performance reasons, and are being treated as a new 16 to 19 academy, will be regarded from the point of re-brokerage as a new provider for the purposes of inspection – in paragraph 16
  • that any newly merged college or other provider considered as a new provider may receive a monitoring visit or a support and challenge visit to assess risk. Risk concerns arising from this, or other sources, could result in an earlier full inspection – in paragraph 17
  • sixth form colleges converting to 16 to 19 academies will be inspected in accordance with their most recent overall effectiveness grade as a sixth form college – on page 7, footnote 7
  • support and challenge visits may be carried out to newly merged providers or other providers being treated as a new provider.
  • Ofsted will also carry out these visits to review new full-time college provision for 14- to 16-year-olds – paragraph 31
  • that the scope of Ofsted inspection includes loans-only funded providers – paragraph 33
  • that sub-contractors may also be subject to inspection – paragraph 36
  • there’s further clarification on arrangements about inspection of religious education and collective worship in Catholic sixth form colleges – paragraph 40
  • that the inspection team will, wherever possible, meet with a student representative – paragraph 77
  • that inspector expectations around lesson plans and planning documents – paragraph 83

There’s minor editing of apprenticeship criteria and grade descriptors to ensure that they fully fit with both apprenticeship frameworks and standards from paragraph 188 onwards.

Other changes to note are those resulting from our survey report ‘How well are further education and skills providers implementing the ‘Prevent’ duty?’ which was published in July. From this September we’ve be raised our expectations of providers to implement all aspects of the ‘Prevent’ duty. And we’ll be evaluating the impact this has on keeping learners safe.

As the new term gets truly underway there are still some myths that are circulating about what inspectors will look for, which I’d like to debunk.

It’s not true that inspectors will…

  • prescribe any particular style – we know that different things work for different teachers and trainers. Inspectors are only interested in how much progress students make
  • want to see lesson plans – inspectors will judge overall how well lessons are planned, but aren’t interested in the specific form of that planning. They’ll evaluate the impact of the planning, not the paperwork
  • expect all aspects of equality and diversity to be promoted as explicit features in every lesson – inspectors want evidence that, during a student’s time at college, they will benefit from equality of opportunity and that they learn about the complex multicultural world they’ll live and work in
  • regard English, mathematics and work experience as limiting grades on study programmes – these aren’t considered limiting grades
  • expect work and tasks in all lessons to be tailored to meet each student’s individual abilities – this is an unrealistic expectation. However, inspectors do expect that teachers make sure that all students, throughout their course, have opportunities to fulfil their potential, regardless of their starting points or abilities
  • expect to see information and learning technology (ILT) being used in every lesson – inspectors, like teachers, see the potential impact on students’ learning of the use of ILT, but at the same time see no particular benefit from the use of ILT as an end in itself.
  • expect all teachers to be observed and graded by their colleges, to inform self-assessment and staff training – it’s entirely up to college leaders what mechanisms they use to improve the quality of teaching.

All providers have been emailed a link to the updated handbook. But if you haven’t received it please download the document ‘Further education and skills handbook for use from September 2016’ on this page.


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  1. Comment by Lee Savell posted on

    Great article, and thank you for that.

    I am however concerned regarding the young lady who is evidently working on the underside of a raised motor vehicle. She has no bump cap, or protective gloves. I am keen that we should be promoting females into the automotive industry, but not at the detriment to H&S.

    It would also appear that the brake calliper, disc assembly is hanging from the flexible brake hose, this is a big No No, there is a massive risk of damaging the high pressure brake line, with the likelihood of a subsequent leak whilst under braking conditions.

  2. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Thank you very much for your feedback and for the comments about the photograph. We will make sure that this isn't used in future.

  3. Comment by Kate posted on

    Thanks for this interesting article!