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Anita Pyrkotsch-Jones, Her Majesty’s Inspector and national lead for careers guidance and youth engagement, on a four-day further education and skills inspection

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I’m a member of a seven-strong team on this inspection of a general further education college. We report to the lead inspector and inspect different aspects of the common inspection framework. This includes 16 to 19 study programmes and adult learning programmes.

I’m responsible for inspecting two key judgements: the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, and personal development, behaviour and welfare.

Initial team meeting

I’ve had my pre-inspection meeting and gathered all my background material. At the first team meeting, the lead inspector discusses inspection processes with us and the college nominee, who is a member of the senior management team, and we agree a timetable of activities. The principal gives a short presentation about the college and improvements made since the last inspection.

I spend most of my time in classes, talking to learners in communal areas and in meetings, and looking at their work. Getting the learners’ perspective helps me to make accurate judgements.

My colleagues and I review supporting documentation and collate evidence. I then jointly observe lessons with five of the college’s observation team, who are all senior leaders. Does the teaching offer learners the knowledge, understanding, skills and behaviours required to pass their course? Are they making good progress in lessons and over time? Can they meet or exceed the set targets?

The college manager and I organise joint work scrutiny. We’ll check the levels and quality of the work in different subject areas. Is the standard high? What feedback are the learners receiving from teachers and do they act on it? Does it help them improve the quality of their work?

In the classroom

The observers and I watch classes together and discuss learners’ progression. As well as collecting evidence about teaching and learning I am also interested in how accurately internal observers identify the class teacher’s key strengths and areas for improvement? We agree on our observations.

Next, I check the progress learners make from the start of their course. Are they achieving and exceeding their target grades? Are target grades realistic yet challenging? This, and other evidence, helps me reach accurate judgements about the quality of teaching, learning and assessment.

Two men working in a garden.

Getting into work

One of the strongest elements I see is the adult learning and work with the long-term unemployed. The college works closely with employers such as the local airport. It’s here that learners can test out the skills they’re acquiring, such as customer service, being presentable, communicating well and turning up for work on time.

Back in the classroom English, mathematics and specific employability skills, like how to interview well, are all on the agenda.

In discussions with teachers, I note that this is a college successfully striving to do more with fewer resources and less funding. They’ve increased class sizes and introduced more e-learning and IT. They’re working with learners to develop more independent thinking and learning skills so that there’s more peer assessment and not everything is teacher-led.

A young person speaks to a woman in a library.

Careers guidance

I test the quality of careers guidance by collecting evidence from a range of sources; documents, interview notes, and action plans from meetings with learners. We’re bound to do this by The Technical and Further Education Act, January 2018.

Learners in a focus group tell me that the careers advice they receive is realistic. They’re told about the challenges and are given good guidance based on their aspirations and abilities to succeed.

I meet the college careers team, external careers support and the college manager, who are all responsible for careers education, information, advice and guidance. It’s a strong group that is working well with few resources.

The Department for Education’s careers strategy says that schools must give providers of technical education and apprenticeships the opportunity to talk to all pupils. I note that this college has good relationships with local schools.

Agreeing grades

Throughout the inspection I work closely with the team, particularly the inspectors who are inspecting 16 to 19 study programmes and adult learning. Their evidence helps me reach accurate judgements. We will agree grades for the quality of teaching, learning and assessment, and personal development, behaviour and welfare.

At the final feedback meeting, which is with college leaders, managers and governors, we tell them about the provisional grades awarded and which key findings will go on the front page of the report.

The lead inspector will now write the report and submit it for quality assurance.

I start thinking about my next inspection.


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  1. Comment by Frank Coffield posted on

    I appreciate the fact that HMIs are being more open about the processes of inspection. It is not enough, however, for Anita to claim three times that her judgements are "accurate". We need more information before we can trust her judgements. For example, how many lessons did she observe? for how long? and what percentage was that of all the lessons given that year in that subject? How did she judge that students were making "good progress in lessons and over time" if she was there for only a few days? How many days? What different forms of evidence did she consult before judging the four separate issues in the Ofsted question: "Does the teaching offer learners the knowledge, understanding, skills and behaviours required to pass their course?" Was the college nominee a full member of the inspection team and present at all of the inspectors' meetings? And if not, why not?
    Perhaps Anita could now supply us with the missing information.

  2. Comment by Peter Rayner posted on

    Good to see a blog entry featuring careers in an Ofsted inspection. With the desire for all schools and FE colleges to meet all 8 Gatsby Benchmarks by 2020, do you think there is a need for a Matrix Standard style assessment specifically looking for evidence of the benchmarks being met? Ofsted inspections are looking for so much in, sometimes, very short timescales, so placing that responsibility on Ofsted might not achieve the outcomes required from schools/colleges.

  3. Comment by Gilliam Tubbs posted on

    Who covers mental health?

  4. Comment by Anita Pyrkotsch-Jones posted on

    Thank you for your comment on the recent blog on inspection by Anita Pyrkotsch-Jones, HMI. I am pleased that you welcome our openness about inspection processes. As my blog blog makes clear, lesson observations are only one of a range of methods used to gauge learners’ progress, as set out in the further educations and skills inspection handbook (paragraphs 76 to 87). A long time ago, Ofsted used to give significant weight to large numbers of (graded) lesson observations in judging the quality of teaching. This is no longer the case; observing teaching is just one element of an inspector’s toolkit. As my commentary makes clear, detailed scrutiny of learners’ work, interviews with learners, evaluation of learning materials, evidence from the college’s monitoring of learners’ progress, and a range of other techniques are used to compile evidence on learners’ progress over time. These are then triangulated to ensure that HMI reach judgements that are supported by a diverse range of evidence. I can also reassure you that the college nominee is present at all meetings of the inspection team, and has ample opportunity to present new evidence and query emerging findings throughout the inspection. Thank you again for your comments.

  5. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on

    Hi, Thanks for your comment. On virtually all of our inspections, we will comment on the quality, and impact, of careers guidance, and we do this by applying the criteria laid down in the further education and skills inspection handbook. Just to be clear, though, it is not Ofsted’s role to assess careers guidance against any specific external benchmarks, including Gatsby. Inspectors focus on the quality of careers guidance – it is a matter for providers how they achieve that quality. It may well be that using the Gatsby benchmarks is helpful to providers; but if we see excellent careers guidance in a provider that hasn’t used the Gatsby benchmarks at all then, to us, it’s still excellent careers guidance.

  6. Comment by Ofsted external relations posted on


    In relation to pupils with medical needs, inspection is primarily about evaluating how well individual pupils benefit from the education provided by the school. Inspection tests the school’s response to individual needs by observing how well it helps all pupils to make progress and fulfil their potential.

    Ofsted’s Common inspection framework requires inspectors, in making judgements upon schools, to pay particular attention to the outcomes of a range of groups of pupils, including those with medical needs. Inspectors gather evidence about pupil welfare and how well needs are met and will evaluate the experience of particular individuals and groups, including those with medical needs. Inspectors will look at a small sample of case studies about the experience of these pupils.

    Ofsted is developing a new inspection framework for September 2019. As part of this, we will consider how inspection can take into account the impact that school life and the curriculum have on pupils’ mental health and well-being.

    Section 100 of the Children and Families Act 2014 places a duty on schools to support pupils with medical conditions. As part of making arrangements for supporting pupils with medical conditions, schools must have a Supporting pupils with medical conditions policy and must have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State for Education. This guidance is published at: Inspectors will consider the school’s policy and its implementation as part of looking at how a school is supporting the welfare and the teaching and learning of pupils with medical conditions.

  7. Comment by Paul Joyce posted on

    Dear Frank

    I am replying to your email as it was me that suggested Anita replied directly to you following the questions you raised in your last communication. I did this as I thought a more personal and direct approach would be appreciated, it is certainly nothing to do with censorship or moderation.

    The original blog was intended to give interested readers a flavour of what typically happens on inspection. Further detailed information about how inspections are conducted and how judgements are made can be found in the further education and skills inspection handbook:

    I hope you find the information useful.

    Best regards

  8. Comment by Frank Coffield posted on

    Dear Anita (if I may),

    Thank you for taking the trouble to respond to my comments and I’m pleased to learn that college nominees play such a useful role in inspections.

    I am concerned, however, that you have not answered any of my specific questions but instead have confined yourself to generalities. For instance, what do you mean by the unhelpful phrase “a range of other techniques”? You also talk of “detailed scrutiny of learners’ work”, but, as before, you decline to say how many learners, leaving me to guess: all the learners in the college? or all those in one department? or a small subset? What we need to know is what percentage of the total number of learners in the college. It is not enough for HMIs to claim that their judgements are accurate, they have to provide sufficient information for their validity and reliability to be assessed and you have not done that so far.

    I would also like to know on what grounds you and the Senior Communications Officer, Michele Nevard, agreed that our correspondence should not be made public. Your blog was public and I am happy for my comments and your reply to be made public too. As my comments conform to Ofsted’s moderation policy, I see no reason why they should be censured in this way and perhaps you could explain.

    Best wishes.


  9. Comment by Paul Joyce posted on

    Hi Frank,

    Thank you for your correspondence. As previously mentioned, Anita’s blog was intended to give interested readers a flavour of what typically happens on inspection. It is only a snapshot as blogs on GOV.UK have to adhere to a certain length. In this case the blog talks about a four-day inspection and we are restricted to around 800 words or less, so it’s impossible to cover everything. We aim to distil the essence of an inspection to give others some insight in to the process.

    I responded personally to you as I thought a more direct approach would be appreciated. We never censor or moderate comments and always welcome feedback.

    As you point out, we are revising our handbook in the near future. We will of course, as always, consult widely and we welcome input from all sectors across education.