Benn Carson, Business Owner, Carson Recruitment

Ofsted. The word alone is enough to strike fear into the hearts of many providers; I can hear my readers’ collective groans already. But sadly, Ofsted inspections are a simple fact of life for most training providers in receipt of public funds.

What is an Ofsted inspection?

Inspections consist of Ofsted inspectors attending your premises and performing an inspection according to the rules laid out in the Further education and skills inspection handbook.

The inspection will include numerous factors including: 

  • Quality of tutoring and mentorship
  • Quality of and adherence to curriculum
  • Quality of your IAG
  • Observations of teaching quality
  • Effectiveness of your assessment
  • Safeguarding arrangements
  • Effectiveness of your strategies for dealing with vulnerable or disadvantaged learners
  • Effectiveness of your supply chain and stakeholder partnerships
  • Leadership and management standards
  • Inclusivity

Think of it like an audit of your business, because just like tax audits, waiting to prepare until you find out about an upcoming Ofsted inspection is a terrible idea. You’ll receive notice just two days before, and if you haven’t got all your Ts crossed and your Is dotted long before that happens, you’re going to be in big trouble.

Securing that elusive “outstanding” grade isn’t just about dazzling inspectors on the day. They’ve seen it all before and you’re not going to fool anyone. The work that goes into a successful inspection begins long before you get the dreaded letter. Running around like a headless chicken 48 hours before the inspectors rock up to your door is a recipe for disaster. 

If you don’t feel confident in your business’ standards, NOW is the time to pull up your sleeves and do something about it.

Ofsted inspection preparation

Come inspection time, you’ll be required to nominate a senior member of staff to act as a liaison. 

So, step one is to appoint this contact ahead of time and make sure they understand the entire process before it starts.

Ideally, the nominated person will have personal experience of Ofsted inspections. In any case, they should read the inspection handbook in full and create your own inspection plan ahead of time.

In this document, you’ll lay out the precise steps which you’ll take in response to an announced inspection.

Reading other providers’ inspection reports will go a long way toward informing your own decisions and helping to understand the process. It might seem like a lot of work for no good reason, but this is a critical part of identifying the kinds of issues which result in lost marks.

Perform your own inspections

Your nominated senior manager must use their deep understanding of the Ofsted assessment framework to perform regular self-assessments based on that framework. If you’re not already performing this kind of assessment, you need to get started, because the advantages are huge.

A dry run will help get your staff accustomed to working under assessment, as well as help you to identify any challenges before you get the dreaded call. This means doing internal assessments with your quality team and even assigning yourself a grade. 

Ultimately, it’s your responsibility if there’s a problem. If the staff don’t perform, the most likely reason is that YOUR procedures are at fault. Accept responsibility NOW and do what you need to do to make sure your team performs better when the inspectors come knocking.

Remember: Quality is King

If you read my article, “Learners come first” you’ll know I’m big on quality. In fact, just like learner retention, when it comes to Ofsted inspections, Quality is King. 

If you intend to get the “outstanding” Ofsted grade you deserve, there’s no tool more powerful. Keep on top of your quality systems, make good decisions based on the info they provide, and everything else should fall into place.

Ofsted inspections: the clock’s ticking

You’re probably already aware that inspections have been suspended since March when the lockdown came into place. But interim and monitoring visits are scheduled to resume starting September 2020. 

Luckily for providers, grades will NOT be assigned for the time being. But that doesn’t mean you can breath a sigh of relief; inspectors will still produce and publish a report. Moreover, if your interim results aren’t up to scratch, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be targeted for a full inspection in the near future. 

Don’t get caught with your pants down! Inspectors aren’t interested in hearing excuses, so if some aspect of your operations hasn’t returned to normal yet, you had better have good reasons AND a clear plan to rectify the issues.

Benn Carson, Business Owner, Carson Recruitment

Need more guidance for the inevitable Ofsted inspection? Next week, I’ll be publishing a detailed handbook for providers outlining in detail the steps you need to take.

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