Further education is failing to meet the needs of employers and large numbers of learners, Ofsted and the Adult Learning Inspectorate have concluded in their first joint annual report on post-16 education and training in England, writes Tony Tysome.
Inspections of more than 100 colleges and 23 area-wide reviews of post-16 provision found that the further education sector and employers do not work closely enough to coordinate work-based learning and assessment.
Provision needed to be rationalised in many areas, and colleges needed to collaborate more effectively with local learning and skills councils, employers, schools and local authorities, said David Bell, Ofsted's chief inspector.
A report on the inspection findings that covers numerous specialist areas taught in colleges says that most colleges provide satisfactory education and that more than 90 per cent of lessons in colleges are satisfactory or better. Teaching and learning for adults was judged to be good, very good or outstanding in 68 per cent of lessons.
But the quality of work-based learning is weaker, with 43 per cent of courses in this category classified as unsatisfactory or very poor.
Achievement rates were too low and workplace training was often poorly planned.
College heads condemned the report's conclusions as "confused and biased".
David Gibson, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: "The report points out substantial strengths and qualities in the work of most colleges, but goes on to criticise them for practice that is largely outside their control."