GMLPF attended the recent NW FES Ofsted Reference Group meeting. Key messages of interest to members are as follows:
Follow Up From Last Meeting
- Sub-contracting and use of associates
It was reiterated that providers need to be open and transparent about the use of sub-contractors and associates in the delivery of learning and for them to comply with all ESFA requirements. Ofsted will continue to look at the performance and quality of sub-contractors and associates where delivery is on behalf of a prime contractor.
- Provider Closures and Transfer of Learners
The latter point was raised by GMLPF representatives as an increasing area of concern ie increased numbers of failing providers and learners (within those providers) not being assisted in a timely fashion to be transferred and assisted to continue in learning. Ofsted shares the concern that this is becoming a significant issue with some 200 providers ceasing to trade over the last 36+ months. Accordingly, ESFA is meeting at both a national and regional level with ESFA and with IFATE too in order to flag up this issue and to explore how learner transfers can be facilitated more effectively
- Increased Volume of Learners awaiting EPA and increased volume of learners who are Out Of Funding
Again Ofsted have taken this on board and are flagging this up as an issue with their inspectors through training to support their programme of inspections moving forward. Providers are encouraged to compile evidence of this issue and its impact so that it can be shared with inspection teams, and the issues better understood, in the event of an inspection
Ofsted’s Plans for Inspection
Ofsted is currently rolling out a programme of training for their Ofsted inspectors to support the full programme of inspection starting in September 2021 onwards, Covid permitting. In the interim, Ofsted appears to be focusing on those new providers awaiting their first NPMV (this seems to be a diminishing number now though) and new providers who have had a monitoring visit (possibly also an interim monitoring visit this year) and who are awaiting a first full inspection.
Experience of the latter group of inspections suggests that the results and experience are generally ok and that, to date, that there have not been any significant issues or trends. Ofsted is suggesting that where inspections are taking place they are trying to be as pragmatic as possible and are working around Covid. Whilst their preference is for face-to-face engagement of providers, employers and learners they are willing to accommodate 100% remote interviews.
A full programme of inspections will commence from September 2021. Arrangements for inspection of remote education (expected to continue for some time still), use of external data and new priorities ie sexual harassment as part of safeguarding is all covered in the new handbook. Members should be familiar with the updated handbook – Further education and skills handbook for September 2021 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Members should also familiarise themselves with the deferral policy currently being operated by Ofsted. In the current circumstances, where Covid is an issue or disrupting operations, providers can ask for a deferral. The policy is here Deferring Ofsted inspections – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Ofsted made it clear that maintaining the Covid safety of their inspection teams, providers, learners and employers is of paramount importance so they will consider deferral where it is appropriate.
Inspection Outcomes Update
Usually, Ofsted provides NW figures on this but this time they provided a national overview. Some interesting points emerged. Some 146 out of 718 Monitoring Visits resulted in an Insufficient Progress judgement or 20%. Only 70 or just less than 10% received Significant Progress. Safeguarding, whilst not the primary driver of Insufficient Progress judgements, remains a real cause for concern with approximately 1 in 3 providers who are making Insufficient Progress having insufficient progress in the area of safeguarding.
Of 1113 Independent Learning Providers only 451 have received a full inspection. This highlights the large volume of ILPs still awaiting a first full inspection and accounts for Ofsted’s increased emphasis on this group of providers currently and from September onwards. Approximately two-thirds of these were graded Good.
Ofsted is currently rolling out training to new and existing Ofsted Inspectors to enable them to build up increased capacity and capability to catch up on its programme of work and to roll out the programme of inspections from September including new inspections of Level 6 and 7 provision.