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The "Further Education Matters" report on the first four year cycle of Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) and Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) college inspections outlines the effectiveness, quality and overall success of the inspections carried out, illustrating their general impact on the further education sector as a whole over a period of four years. In the first of this two "“ part series, FE News reporter Sara Hashash looks at the findings.

The Report

The report highlights the importance of further education and its key role in consistently improving skills and providing qualifications in order to enhance people's employability and chances of promotion. The value of further education however, extends beyond equipping the workforce with necessary skills, it also makes significant contributions to the economic, social and cultural life of the UK.

The report examines the inspection cycle that began in 2001 charting the success of the government's "Success for All" policy which aimed to bring about major reforms in the FE sector. This policy aims to make available, in every local area, a focused "demand-led" system providing learning to 14-19 year olds.

Strength

Indeed, the past four years have seen some major improvements and significant advances in the standards at colleges around the country. There has been an undisputed rise in the teaching standards with most colleges achieving the level "good" or better, and the majority of colleges are reasonably well-managed. In addition, success rates at colleges and the quality of the colleges" self assessment have greatly risen, whilst the proportion of unsatisfactory provision by colleges has fallen.

The most outstanding achievement throughout the four year cycle has been the overwhelming decrease in the percentage of colleges classed as inadequate - which fell from 11% to just 4% as a direct result of the rigorous series of inspections. David Bell, the Chief Inspector for Ofsted, commented on this in his speech to the Assocaiton of Colleges (AoC) Conference this month.

The report established that the key strengths of FE are its speed to respond to government initiatives and adapt to reforms such as the repeated revision of the national diploma qualification, conforming to the new legislations put in place as it strives to increase quality and provision of its services. It is not only committed to improving standards but also to the policy of social inclusion as more and more community members, previously out of touch with education, return to learning or take up new courses, particularly those from disadvantaged communities.

Good Guidance

There is also a high quality of guidance and support provided to young people between the age of 16 to 19 years who are in a delicate transition phase as they have not yet reached adulthood and need special provisions in teaching and learning. Furthermore, the curriculum for young people aged between 14 and 19 has developed to provide them with wider options and more vocational alternatives to conventional courses, prompting them to think about career opportunities and the skills required from an early stage.

The report has also revealed that FE colleges are increasingly responding to the needs of specific employers, thereby tailoring education and courses to focused areas of skills and expertise.

Sara Hashash

Read the second part of Sara Hashash's report right here on FE News!

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