Ofsted voices quality concerns

Only three Further Education colleges have been rated outstanding by Ofsted this year.

07 December 2012 / Be the first to comment

Only three Further Education colleges have been rated outstanding by Ofsted this year, with 63 per cent marked down and eight previously outstanding colleges demoted. Brighton Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College, Eastleigh and Exeter colleges were graded outstanding – and Exeter had just 45 minutes warning before the inspectors arrived – while overall just four colleges saw an increased grade. 

The new head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has said colleges are ‘using the complexity of FE as a cover for not doing what they should be doing, which is monitoring the quality of teaching’. Known for transforming Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, Wilshaw appears to be concerned about colleges ‘coasting’ along without improving.

‘Grades fell for several reasons,’ explains Paul Archer at City & Guilds. ‘Tutors failing to utilise learners progress’, academic support was ‘too variable’, a lack of effective use of self-assessment processes; low numbers of centres obtaining an outstanding judgement for teaching and learning; concerns about the sufficiency of expertise in English and maths teaching; and courses insufficiently focused on achievement rather career and employment. The latter is especially important in the context of rising unemployment.’ 

Strong leadership is crucial to a college’s success, according to a new Ofsted guidance report, ‘How Colleges Improve’. In successful colleges, senior management teams had a clear vision and there was a strong sense of belonging among staff, learners, stakeholders and the community. In underperforming colleges, however, Ofsted found that there was often weak governance, an absence of self-criticism and ineffective teaching and learning. In a few cases, colleges refused to recognise the inspectors’ findings.  

Ofsted recommends colleges ensure that ‘evaluation of the effectiveness and quality of teaching and learning is clear, accurate and robust and enables swift and sustainable improvements’. See the full Ofsted report.

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