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Revving up for Ofsted 2021: Have Ofsted kept their promise?

Kerry Boffey, CEO and Founder Fellowship of Inspection Nominees (FIN) & Adult Learning Improvement Network (ALIN)

Scheduled inspections by @OfstedNews were suspended from March this year and since late September, Ofsted have been carrying out ‘interim visits’ to FE and Skills providers.

In early October the Fellowship of Inspection Nominees (FIN) were delighted to welcome Paul Cocker, Ofsted Senior HMI Ofsted to talk openly and honestly to FIN members,  nominees and quality managers who are on the (free to subscribe) FIN National register.        

Paul gave invaluable insight into the reasoning behind the interim visits and assured providers around the purpose and intentions of Ofsted’s interim visits. It was made very clear that the approach from inspectors is be supportive with the focus on engaging with the sector to encourage and understand how the provision is being supported during this difficult period research. No judgments and no evidence gathering. Will take place other than discussions to develop an insight. ‘Interim visits’ are NOT inspections.  To date there have been over 50 ‘interim visits’ undertaken and a significant number of these reports have been published.

One of the big questions asked by the sector is:

Did Ofsted keep their promise regarding how these interim visits would be undertaken and conducted? 

Has the approach been one of support and engagement?

At FIN, we strongly believe in collaboration and sharing knowledge, experiences, resources and best practice.  We are in close contact with all our members and have heard first-hand about their experiences of these visits. Recently, we hosted a FIN network meeting where members shared first-hand their positive experiences and in a number of cases, yes, a few curved balls.

The overwhelming response was ‘YES, without a doubt, Ofsted have kept their promise’.

  • “It felt very different to an inspection. From the initial call the approach was collaborative and supportive.”
  • “We really enjoyed the visit.”
  • “Very positive throughout. Inspectors held professional discussions with our leadership team and session managers the feedback was very positive.”
  • “The Ofsted were really interested to hear what actions we had taken over the summer. There were no judgments and our report accurately reflects what we told the inspectors.”
  • We didn’t prepare as such but we were very pleased we had attended the FIN webinar, so we knew what to expect.”
  • “Staff were nervous beforehand, but the fear soon dispelled as we could see the approach was very different.”

Interim visits did not directly follow the Ofsted EIF but primarily focus on three key themes:

  1. What actions are leaders taking to ensure that they provide an appropriate curriculum that responds to the reasonable needs of learners and stakeholders and adapts to changed circumstances?   
  1. What steps are leaders, managers and staff taking to ensure that the approaches used for building knowledge and skills are appropriate to meet the reasonable needs of learners?
  1. How are leaders ensuring that learners are safe and well informed about potential risks, including from online sources?

From FIN members feedback  – theme 1 included questions about:

  • Strategic decisions as a result of the pandemic, curriculum changes and the involvement of stakeholders.
  • Middle managers’ and leaders’ (and subcontractors) implementation of curriculum arrangements. 
  • The views of stakeholders such as employers on the arrangements the provider has made to meet learners’ needs. 
  • How the providers staff are implementing leaders’ plans to meet their learners’ needs. 

Theme 2 included questions about:

  • Who (and how) is overseeing curriculum implementation, reviewing quality and supporting staff?
  • The training and support leaders have provided for staff on changes for delivery.
  • What arrangements are in place for learners with specific support needs and how has careers advice been adapted so that it is fit for purpose?  

Theme 3 included questions about:

  • Leaders’ arrangements to identify the risks for learners that have arisen during this time and what they have done to minimise risks.
  • The steps taken by leaders to keep learners safe, including online.
  • The training provided to teachers and other staff to keep learners safe.
  • Learners’ understanding of the arrangements made by the provider to keep them safe and provide them with information about safeguarding measures and potential risks..

This list of points is not definitive but gives a flavour of the type of questions that were put to providers. It is important to remember on these ‘interim visits’ Ofsted were not looking for the supporting evidence. This process was about developing an open, professional dialogue – not inspection.

The interim visits also provided an opportunity for providers to share with inspectors other aspects of good practice and positive changes made to the curriculum, resources, delivery model and support structures put in place during this difficult period on the pandemic.

What happens when Ofsted resume the scheduled inspections?

Do providers need to take a different approach to inspections in the future?

Are we seeing a new possible approach to Ofsted inspections?

It is important that all types of providers recognise that these ‘interim visits’ are not inspections and that the EIF remains in place as the quality charter Ofsted will measure against when graded inspection restart.

Good quality inspection preparation is never about ‘doing things for Ofsted’ but actually good quality improvement arrangements and robust evidence to demonstrate strong organisational practice and good learner achievements.

Ofsted have not changed their model or modus operandi but have just introduced an additional style of visit designed to support the sector and carry out invaluable research during this far from normal times that we find ourselves in.

What about the providers who have not yet received an ‘interim visit’?

What action should providers take?

It is really important to build resilience across the quality of provision and the confidence of the nominee.

Providers will need to reflect on their provision this year for their self-assessment. Internal evaluations on how well you, as a provider, have adapted your provision, redesigned curriculum, and delivery models during 2020 will be critical. Producing a very simple timeline to capture the last 10 months will be highly valuable. As well as the ‘highs’ remember to capture the ‘less than positives’. For those of you who have heard me speak at conferences or attended FIN training events, you will know I believe it is really important to capture all the twists and turns – ideas, policies, the successes and the setbacks, adapting system processes, organisational approach or previous practices may provide good evidence of positive choices made under the pressure in adjusting to changing and fluid situations.

Revving up for Ofsted 2021

FIN will be hosting a complimentary webinar  – everyone listed on the national register of Nominees and Quality Managers  will receive an invite to join us on Wednesday 9th December 11.00 -12.00

The complimentary webinar will ask:

With the New Year fast approaching and scheduled inspections due to resume how much thought have providers given to Ofsted?  

Join Dr Chris Jones, former Ofsted HMI and Specialist Advisor for Apprenticeships with Kerry Boffey FIN CEO to talk about the recent FIN power up programme, lessons and highlights from the recent Project Impact webinar with Peter Stacey and future events that are on the horizon.

In this complimentary session Chris will be raising some challenging and thought provoking questions about inspection readiness, long term strategy to deliver high quality provision and some quick wins.

Kerry and Chris will be looking at the support FIN can provide and the range of resources available to help your nominee and quality team move forward quickly in the inspection readiness journey.

Aimed at Senior leaders, managers, nominees, quality managers and those who aspire for good provision or aim to secure a good or outstanding grade at future inspections.

This session is designed to share information and good practice. It will also be an opportunity for providers to find out about the full range of services offered by FIN.  

Current FIN members will also benefit from this free webinar listening to Chris Jones and Kerry Boffey raise some probing and interesting questions and signpost to the FIN resources that will help members to be inspection ready.

Register here (free of charge) to receive your invite:

Kerry Boffey, CEO and Founder Fellowship of Inspection Nominees (FIN) & Adult Learning Improvement Network (ALIN)

A former inspector, Kerry has provided specialist quality and inspection support across the sector for over a decade. Creating FIN to change the way providers approached and prepared for inspection by supporting nominees and quality managers to build a culture of quality that maximises potential and minimises risk at inspection.

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