Memorandum submitted by the Association
of Colleges (AoC)
AoC (the Association of Colleges) is the representative
body for colleges of further education, including general FE colleges,
sixth form colleges and specialist colleges in England, Wales
(through our association with fforwm) and Northern Ireland
(through our association with ANIC). AoC was established in 1996
by the colleges themselves to provide a voice for further education
at national and regional levels. Some 98% of the 400-plus general
FE colleges, sixth-form colleges and specialist colleges in the
three countries are in membership. These colleges are the largest
providers of post-16 general and vocational education and training
in the UK. They serve over four million of the six million learners
participating in post-statutory education and training, offering
lifelong learning opportunities for school leavers and adults
over a vast range of academic and vocational qualifications. Levels
of study range from the basic skills needed to remedy disadvantage,
through to professional qualifications and higher education degrees.
The key role played by the sector and its 250,000
staff in raising the level of skills and competitiveness of the
nation's workforce makes colleges central to the Government's
national and regional agenda for economic prosperity and social
inclusion. AoC services to member college corporations include
information, professional development and support in all aspects
of institutional management, governance, curriculum development,
quality, employment, business development and funding. AoC also
works in close partnership with the Government and all other key
national and regional agencies to assist policy development, continuously
to improve quality and to secure the best possible provision for
post-16 education and training.
AoC believes that bringing together
all aspects of children's services work under one inspectorate
will help to ensure the safety and well-being of young people.
We believe there would be advantages
in a single inspectorate, namely:
Greater consistency in the delivery
and outcomes of inspection.
Increased pressure to ensure
comparability in the use of data and definition of success, especially
between school sixth forms and the rest of the post-16 sector.
Possibly enhancing the profile
of vocational learning.
Offering the possibility of savings
which could be transferred to the front line.
However, we have reservations about
including the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) in the statutory
remit of an enlarged Ofsted.
We would like reassurance that specific
support features of ALI which were helpful to improving the quality
of provision in colleges will be replicated in some form.
We are concerned that the post-16
expertise of ALI, particularly of adult and work-based learning,
would be lost in an enlarged new Ofsted and that this section
of Ofsted would not be accorded sufficient status within an organisation
largely devoted to a children's and young people's agenda.
We are concerned that the shortage
of appropriately qualified and experienced inspectors may be exacerbated
with the demise of ALI and seek reassurance that Nord Anglia has
the capacity to deliver inspections of adult and work-based learning.
1. The Government is committed to bringing
the children's services work of the Commission for Social Care
Inspection (CSCI) into Ofsted, together with the Children and
Families Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) inspection
remit of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Court Administration (HMICA)
to create a single inspectorate for children and learners. They
are consulting as well on whether the current statutory remit
of the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) should be included in
2. In general terms, AoC supports the proposal
to merge into Ofsted those inspectorates which have a particular
remit for inspecting services for children: the children's services
work of the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Children
and Families Court Advisory and Support Services inspection remit
of HMI of Court Administration. This would appear to improve the
prospects of integration and a "joined-up" approach
that should help to ensure the safety and well-being of children
and young people.
3. However, the inclusion of the statutory
remit of the ALI in the Ofsted inspectorate does not have such
clear-cut advantages and we would wish to see a thorough examination
of all the issues before a decision is made. We would wish to
stress the importance of such an examination since it appears
from the consultation document that the move to a single inspectorate
is signalled as the Government's firm intention.
4. AoC believes that there could be benefits
to be gained in terms of quality improvement from the merger of
a children's and young people's inspectorate with one designed
for adult and work-based, prison education, Jobcentre Plus and
learndirect provision. However, there are several critical factors
that need to be considered if this proposal is to bring about
a new inspectorate that effectively serves the needs of the whole
of the education and training sector.
5. The positive benefits that a single inspectorate
could bring are that it could:
support the tighter statutory regulation
of child protection and schools through a single statutory regulatory
body for the inspection of childcare, child protection, schools
and the 16-19 aspects of further education colleges. However,
there is a debate over its capacity to regulate adult skills effectively;
ensure greater consistency in the
delivery and outcomes of inspections. Ofsted and ALI are increasingly
divergent in their interpretation of and approach to inspection,
for example in the greater period of notice allowed in the new
arrangements for ALI sole-remit inspections. However, this could
only occur where the methodology and data from which conclusions
are drawn are consistent. This is still not currently the case,
particularly between school sixth forms and other post-16 learning;
reflect more coherently the lifelong
learning agenda of colleges and the wide age-range of their learners.
The majority of colleges provide for both 16-19 and adult learners.
Similarly, many schools and sixth-form colleges also provide learning
bring vocational learning more into
the mainstream. Ensuring that adult and vocational learning are
inspected and reported on by the same inspectorate may increase
their profile and visibility; and
offer the opportunity for savings
which could be transferred to the front line of delivery.
6. In attempting to rationalise inspectorates,
it is important that the very specific remits of individual inspectorates
are not diluted or require extensive and bureaucratic cross-referencing.
In particular, if ALI were to be absorbed into Ofsted, it would
be vital that the focus on post-16 (and especially post-19) learners
was not lost or subsumed by the greater emphasis on children.
The "adult" remit of a new Ofsted would represent less
than a tenth of its child protection and school inspection work.
It is vital that the post-16 unit is accorded due status and prominence
within the organisation.
7. It would be vital that the specific expertise
contained within the ALI was replicated within a new inspectorate.
ALI have experience of adult and vocational learning that is not
contained within Ofsted. Many colleges feel that the ALI members
of the inspection team show greater understanding of the issues
faced by general FE colleges than do Ofsted.
8. With the announcement of the contracting
of Nord Anglia for the delivery of inspections, AoC already has
particular concerns about ensuring the consistency and quality
of inspection teams in the future. We would seek re-assurance
about Nord Anglia's capacity to deliver inspections of adult and
9. It has already proved difficult on many
occasions to find appropriately experienced inspectors for some
vocational areas. Merging Ofsted and ALI may exacerbate this position.
It would be vital that existing inspectors in these areas are
10. ALI is committed to a direct quality
improvement and support function through the provision of specialised
help for providers and referral to good practice through Excalibur
and the Provider Development Unit. However, the new Ofsted would
be a government department whose sole function would be statutory
regulation. It is important, particularly for weak providers,
many of whom are in the work-based learning and adult and community
sectors, that they do not lose this important facility and access
to informed support for improvement, even if it is not provided
by the inspection body.
11. The articulation of the ALI specialist
support function with the new QIA needs to be considered. One
way in which this could be delivered is as part of the delivery
arm of the new agency.
12. The proposed new Ofsted will cover only
further education and adult learning funded by the Department
for Education and Skills. It will not include higher education,
or other areas of work currently undertaken by ALI, ie:
(a) That commissioned by other government
departments, such as the Department for Work and Pensions, the
Home Office and the Ministry of Defence, in the training of adults.
(b) Private sector voluntary commissions
13. It is important in any new regulatory
body that there is as great a degree of comparability with the
QAA methodology as feasible. If there were to be a single inspectorate,
it would present a good opportunity for developing this complementarity
14. A change in Ofsted's governance is suggested
in the consultation. Currently Ofsted's Chief Inspector is not
accountable to a board providing direction and guidance. It is
highly desirable that there is a separation of the executive and
strategic functions which would accord with the principles of
good governance practice in both public and private sectors. A
non-executive chair and board would, it is hoped, address some
of the issues over which the Select Committee has in the past