Further Education And Skills Sector Has Raised Its Game Says Ofsted

Further Education & Skills: Percentage of providers rated for overall effectiveness.

The Further Education (FE) and Skills Sector has “raised its game” says Sir Michael Wilshaw Chief Inspector for Ofsted.

This optimistic appraisal comes from the latest Ofsted annual report that reveals 71% of providers are now rated good or outstanding. This is an increase of 7 percentage points, showing definite signs that hard work to improve the quality of FE is paying off. 

These improvements within the sector are despite public funding allocations being £100 million less than in the previous year (around £7.78bn in total).

In the past year around 3.7 million learners took part in government-funded education or training in the FE and skills sector. Although the battle is being won, there are still many remaining barriers that our education system needs to overcome to compete to a global standard. These key issues, highlighted by Ofsted, have come up time and again in discussions and reviews of provision.

Apprenticeships and Training for 16-24 Year Olds

There is now an urgent challenge to schools and the FE and skills sector to ensure that young people are equipped to benefit from the opportunities that apprenticeships and similar programmes provide.

The report tackles the topic of apprenticeships, traineeships, and the need for quality and effective training for 16 to 24 year olds. Yet with a proposed 17.5% funding cut for provision for 18 year olds, this will prove more challenging coming the next years. As the AoC's Julian Gravatt Comments “No one can budget on air".

Meeting Local Employer and Labour Market Needs.

Every provider has an important role in ensuring that its courses are both matched to local needs and make a real difference to individuals.

The key to success is in matching training to local skills demands.  However with many providers struggling to understand the priorities of their local area they are unable to evaluate how well they have tailored their provision. This is due to insufficient data (or access to data), poor communication, and /or lack of local accountability for provision.

The report suggests that the sector would benefit from local authorities taking further accountability for provision and a more active role in training within their geographical region.

Destination and Outcome Tracking

The ability to judge the true effectiveness of provision will depend, among other things, on the availability of robust data on learners’ destinations."

To be more responsible for provision within your local area and you need to understand the ‘true impact’ of training. You cannot react if you do not know what your priorities are.

Collecting data on destinations and job outcomes as well as surveying learners can give training providers a reliable indication of their influence, successes, and failures.  In a recent survey of FE colleges 71% revealed that tracking progress and outcomes was a key barrier to successful delivery.

Ofsted comments that gathering this data on a national level (as well as locally) would give the sector a greater understanding of the situation as a whole and how best to tackle it. This would also provide the Government with accurate data on where their funding is most needed, of greatest impact, and best spent.

Responses From The Sector

157 Group:

 “It is good to see today's report acknowledging a significantly improved profile of teaching, learning and assessment in FE Colleges…Leaders and lecturers have given stronger attention to the quality and impact of what happens in student learning with clear results. As always colleges have risen to the challenge.

We welcome Ofsted's acknowledgment of the need for local accountability frameworks and for more effective links with employers and skills needs." - Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the 157 Group. (source)

"It is rewarding to hear a much more constructive tone coming from Ofsted this year in regard to Further Education colleges. We are powerful strategic players in the skills agenda and hubs of community learning, and our role in providing high quality vocational teaching and learning is critical.” - Peter Roberts, chair of the 157 Group and chief executive of Leeds City College. (source)


“It is encouraging that there is optimism across the sector and that more providers are performing better than last year. 

“The report also found that too much provision is not sufficiently responsive to local employment need, regardless of the quality of teaching and that the Apprenticeship system is still failing to meet its full potential." - David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE. (source)

Association of Colleges:

“The report, which highlights the importance of moving young people into sustainable employment, looks at the role of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in providing good quality employment and earnings data, so that there is the prospect of a better match between college supply and local skills needs.

“Colleges have been given a mountain to climb in redressing the failure to achieve at GCSE in English and maths at 16 - after 11 years of school - into a success...We must make sure we have the tools – financial, human and curriculum - to respond to this challenge.” - Martin Doel, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges. (source)

Tor Macleod 12:24

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