Bill to give Ofsted main role in FE inspections

January 14, 2000

The bulk of further education college quality inspections will be led by schools watchdog Ofsted in future, it has emerged.

Provisions in the Learning and Skills Bill, due for its second reading in the House of Lords on Monday, allow Ofsted to be the main body responsible for inspections in most of the country's 440 colleges. The bill, which sets up the new Learning and Skills Council to fund all post-16 education and training except higher education, gives Ofsted the responsibility for inspecting 16 to 19 provision in colleges. A new Adult Learning Inspectorate is charged with inspecting post-19 provision.

But the bill gives Ofsted the lead in colleges where the inspection responsibility is shared jointly between Ofsted and the ALI.

Alan Tuckett, director of the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education, said: "Four-fifths of the students in general further education colleges are adults and the ALI should take the lead. It would be wrong to have the ALI playing second fiddle to Ofsted."

John Brennan, director of further education development for the Association of Colleges, said there was "no doubt" that the bill intended to give Ofsted the lead role.

Shadow education secretary Theresa May said: "At present inspections are based on peer review and have worked in general. There are concerns about Ofsted's style of inspection."

Much depends on negotiations under way on the shape of the common inspection framework. A key issue is to ensure Ofsted's centralised and heavy-handed style of schools' inspection is not adopted for colleges.

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