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Steve Tucker, HMI reflects on a further education and skills inspection

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On a four-day further education and skills inspection there’s a lot of evidence to collect and many people to speak with when reaching an accurate judgement. These are intensive days for the inspection team and the college.

Inspection snapshot

As a team member I receive a briefing from the lead inspector before the inspection. On day one I have a series of meetings with staff from the college and look at the evidence they provide on the different aspects of their provision. One topic we discuss is the work-experience that many students undertake. Many are spending part of their course working in a local company or setting up their own small business, but a few appear to be getting little experience of the world of work. In the evening I read the documents they’ve given me and reflect on the discussions I've had with college managers. I still need to understand how many students carry out meaningful work-experience, so will need to follow this up tomorrow.

First thing next morning I catch up with the lead inspector to see if there’s anything he wants me to focus on. Next I set up a meeting with the college’s nominee (a senior manager from the college who is part of the inspection team) to talk more about work experience and fill in those gaps.

Lesson observation

I observe a 45 minute sports lesson and I’m delighted to give the teacher a lot of positive feedback. I can see that he understands how to gain the students’ trust.

He makes them feel secure enough to experiment, regardless of whether they've succeeded or failed in their task. The level 1 students are enthusiastically planning how to run a short training session with children and it’s a joy to see.

I discuss English, maths and work-experience with managers for the rest of the morning and between those meetings I make time to visit the college library to speak to students. At the start they're nervous talking to an inspector. However, we end up having useful discussions about their training and career paths.

I head back to the base room, our inspection centre, with a salad box for lunch. A colleague is tucking into a tray of food that wouldn’t look out of place on MasterChef. The students who had prepared it are there and look very proud of their achievements.

I catch up on reading and speak to other inspectors to find out if they have come across anything that morning that will help me come to my judgements.


Next I visit the college’s centre on a huge industrial estate – a location that helps to improve their contact with local industries.

I watch as 5 business people advise 20 business students on how to prepare themselves for employment. I’m impressed by their commitment to helping potential future employees. I also talk to some of the students who’ve taken the advice to heart.

The centre manager shows me evidence of how they link their students to local businesses; all of which gives me more information about the college’s approach to work experience.

Inspectors conferring

Back at the college I meet up with one of our inspectors who is on his first inspection. I make sure that everything is going to plan and take a copy of his notes to check through later. Then I catch up with a colleague who I’m mentoring on this inspection. As she’s completely on top of her work she needs no more than an offer of help, if required.

Today’s team meeting is longer than normal. The lead inspector knows that a lot of questions are still not answered.

He wants the college’s nominee to understand which areas need further clarity. This is the time to explain emerging thoughts.

This type of feedback is very useful to the college and the nominee takes notes to feedback to colleagues.

Later at the hotel I check through the new inspector’s notes and they’re good. I’ll give him some feedback tomorrow.

Over the next two days I continue to gather evidence and write up my findings. On the final day the whole team looks at these. We agree a grade for them, along with grades for all the different aspects of the inspection. We then tell the college. The lead inspector still has a lot of work to do, writing up the report and seeing it through all the quality checks. For me, the inspection is over on Friday afternoon and I can start thinking about my next one.

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