Paul Joyce, Deputy Director of Further Education and Skills, Ofsted

The further education and skills sector provides education, training and apprenticeships for around 3.3 million learners aged 16 and above. In 2016/17 it received £7.8 billion in funding.

The Annual Report details the findings from 392 inspections in the further education and skills sector between 1 September 2016 and 31 August 2017. The good news is that the sector is performing well with 8 out of 10 providers being judged good or outstanding at their most recent inspection.

However, some sectors are lagging behind others and there continues to be significant challenges to overcome.

Colleges

General further education (GFE) colleges continue to do an admirable job with around 7 in 10 being good or outstanding. However, over the last year the proportion of colleges that are good or outstanding dropped from 71% to 69%. These providers continue to face many changes and challenges. Mergers have seen the number of GFE colleges reduce from 207 to 189. Changes have been introduced to many tech-level qualifications, and financial stability and funding remain areas of concern for too many colleges.

The number of sixth form colleges fell from 90 to 79 during the year as a result of mergers with a GFE college or because of academisation. The change in status of these 11 colleges, together with the fact that eight previous good colleges declined at inspection, led to a reduction in the overall proportion judged good or outstanding from 89% to 81%.

Changes to the A-level curriculum and funding challenges have dominated this group of providers. Sixth form colleges continue to perform well but need to ensure this decline in inspection performance is reversed.

Independent learning providers

Independent learning providers are performing well overall with around 8 in 10 being good or outstanding. However, we do have concerns about the quality of some apprenticeship provision.

These providers have faced significant challenges with the changes introduced by the apprenticeship reform programme. We continue to monitor the impact of the apprenticeship reform programme on the quality of provision in the sector.

Community learning and skills providers

This group of providers continue to perform well with over 80% being good or outstanding. These providers have also faced funding challenges and curriculum changes throughout the year. Adult skills budgets and the proposed devolution of funding in a number of local areas are of particular concern to many providers in this sector.

No provider too big to fail

Ofsted seeks to be a force for improvement through intelligent, responsible and focused inspection. We do this by focusing our resources where they are needed the most. This year we found one of the largest providers of training in England, with around 97,000 learners, to be inadequate. This shows no provider is too big to fail.

We welcome reforms designed to improve apprenticeships and technical education. We will continue to work closely with the DfE to ensure that the quality of provision is not compromised by providers that may seek to exploit the funding opportunities available without having sufficient regard to quality. We will do all we can to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated.

Conclusion

There is much for the sector to be proud of in this year’s Annual Report. Many further education and skill providers continue to provide good quality learning despite sector uncertainty and budget restraints. However, there is more to do to ensure that every student or apprentice in a further education and skills provider gets the excellent education and training they deserve.

Paul Joyce, Deputy Director of Further Education and Skills, Ofsted

You can read the Ofsted Annual Report here.

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