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

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.

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.

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.



  1. 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.

    • Replies to Peter Rayner>

      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.

  2. Comment by Gilliam Tubbs posted on

    Who covers mental health?

    • Replies to Gilliam Tubbs>

      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.


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