Paul Joyce, Deputy Ofsted’s Director for Further Education and Skills, discusses its further education and skills pilot visits and insists that Ofsted “is not here to make life difficult”.

In July, we reported that Ofsted announced its intention to carry out visits across all the areas it inspects, namely schools, further education and skills, early years and children’s social care. The visits themselves which were to start in the autumn are not inspections and won’t result in a graded judgement. They have a simple but important aim – to reassure parents, learners, employers and government about what providers are doing to get education and training back up and running, and to make sure learners are safe.

Since mid-September, Ofsted has been piloting these visits across further education and skills providers, testing its approach before the full visits begin. Paul Joyce said; “I’ve been struck by just how receptive the sector has been to the visits and how well providers have engaged with the process.”

Extracts from the main points of the blog are below:

Learning from our pilots

Overall, the pilots have been very successful. They show that our methodology works and that the visits work in practice, despite the unusual circumstances we all face. We’re confident that we can carry out the visits safely and with minimum disruption to a provider’s day-to-day business.

Our inspectors have been made to feel very welcome. Those providers that took part really understood our rationale and embraced the visits as a constructive and collaborative process. Leaders and other staff were rightly proud of what they’d achieved and what they had done to get learners up to speed after so long away. Some found the visit a relief, others said it was reaffirming – a chance to have their hard work acknowledged.

Safety is our priority

The pilots also allowed us to see what the visits would be like with social distancing rules in place. Arrangements will obviously vary from provider to provider, so our visit teams will abide by whatever measures individual providers have put in place to keep learners safe. The safety of our staff, learners and providers’ staff is, of course, our utmost priority.

What will the visits focus on?

Visits will be based around 3 themes and will comprise a set of conversations with leaders and staff. First, we’ll ask about the strategic actions taken to maintain the curriculum or get it back up and running. Second, we’ll discuss what you have been doing operationally to deliver online and face-to-face learning. Finally, we will want to talk about safeguarding: how are you making sure that learners are safe in these unusual circumstances. We’ll summarise these discussions in a published report, although we will not publish the reports for our pilot providers.

The way forward

We are acutely aware of how difficult the past few months have been and our visit teams are sensitive to this. We are not here to make life difficult. Ultimately, we want to understand the challenges that the sector faces, so we can help government and policymakers understand them too. We hope that our published reports will be useful to providers as they consider their own approaches, with the reports sharing good and innovative practice.

The full blog post can be found on the Ofsted website here.

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