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Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Ofsted, addresses the Association of Colleges annual confe

The Chief Inspector of Ofsted yesterday pledged the organisation to continue its close scrutiny of colleges citing the majority of FE institutions who “welcomed it”.

Christine Gilbert, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector with Ofsted, addressed the closing session of the Association of Colleges 11th conference with a positive assertion on the performance of colleges over the past year.

She said: “The inspections carried out during 05/06 demonstrate a continued trend of improvement. Nearly all colleges found inadequate at the previous inspection have improved. Some have made considerable and remarkable improvements, and these improvements would not have happened without a rigorous programme of inspection”.

“A feature of the best further education colleges is their focus on social inclusion. They are deeply conscious of the fact that different things are important to different learners. The best colleges recognise that 16 to 19 year-olds have different needs from those of adults”.

However, she made reference to the small percentile of colleges still performing below par, pledging to eradicate poor performance: “Of 100 colleges we inspected, only 8 were found to be inadequate. But even that is still too many. Two of the colleges found to be good at the last inspection are now inadequate, and some colleges are showing little or no signs of improvement. The Ofsted mantra is “satisfactory is not good enough”.

“In 10% of cases, planned inspections could be postponed or used with a lighter touch ““ I hope you welcome this sort of flexibility. The vast majority of colleges welcomed the principle and process of inspection itself, and I am determined that inspections should make a difference”.

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“Just over 10% of colleges believed that there were negative aspects which outbalanced the positive aspect of inspection. Over the last 12 months, we have made significant changes, and the very best colleges will receive the lightest touch”.

“I don”t believe that any college should be exempt from scrutiny”.

She added: “Seldom has FE achieved such a high political profile as it has now. This opportunity is not to be missed. Change is an inevitable consequence of being in the spotlight”.

“FE matters because so many learners use it and for so many reasons. It matters too because employers rely on it to equip the workforce with the skills it needs”.

Vijay Pattni.

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