Ofsted Annual Report Dec 2015/16

On 1st December Sir Michael Wilshaw published his fifth and final annual report on education and skills. The report covered a number of areas of interest:

 ·       Adult Learning: Adult numbers in funded provision fell from 3.3 million in 2012/13 to just 2.6 million. Of these, 30% are on courses at ACL providers, 24% at independent learning providers, and 44% at FE Colleges. Although declining, 82% of the 234 funded community learning and skills providers are judged to be good or outstanding, which is 11% above the FE rate. The decline is partially explained by some good adult learning providers closing. Inspectors found that good and outstanding community learning and skills providers work in partnership with charities and the public and voluntary sector so that they can reach all sections of their locality.

While funded non-accredited courses have continued to fall, there has been an increased focus on longer courses that lead to qualifications such as Functional Skills or a GCSE. The fall in learner numbers is greater for those over 35, and most marked in the over 60s. This is bad news, as increases in the state pension age will mean many more people over 60 looking for work but without the qualifications and skills necessary for a change in employment. 

The proportion of FE colleges rated at least "good" has declined 6% to 71%, with the proportion being rated as “inadequate” almost doubling. However, 82% of independent training providers (which includes Third Sector providers) are rated good or outstanding, up 1% from last year. ITPs deliver three-quarters of apprenticeship provision.

*        Area Review: The Chief Inspector criticised the Government’s Area Review process in its exclusion of the full range of post-16 providers. The report says that this exclusion “limits the effectiveness of the reviews in providing a strategic perspective on the provision within an area”. It supports the view of many adult learning providers that the outcomes of the reviews, rather than deliver a learning offer that is aligned to local and regional employment priorities, has instead “focused primarily on proposed mergers to support financial sustainability, or tackle inadequate provision”. In its response to the report, the AELP emphasised that to achieve this alignment, “the delivery of work-based learning by ITPs to employers, which is often specialised, has to be taken more fully into account”.

·       GCSE English and maths resits: Despite record numbers of students at lower levels retaking their qualifications, many still fail to improve. The report states, “It remains unclear whether the GCSE qualification is the best way of ensuring that students have the English and mathematical skills needed for their intended career”.  No surprise there for adult education providers who have preferred to help learners by providing Functional Skills. With new Nursing degree-level apprenticeships allowing Functional Skills as an alternative to GCSE, the sector will now be lobbying Ministers to encourage this across all apprenticeships.

·       Apprenticeships improving:  Almost two-thirds (63%) of apprenticeships inspected were "good" or "outstanding"– an increase of 12% over last year. However, this still means that 90,000 apprentices are not on “good” provision. The report also highlights a lack of capacity with 9 applicants for every one apprenticeship vacancy, and many apprenticeships not focussed on areas of skills shortage (such as digital, manufacturing or technical skills) or at Level 3.

·       Prison education: 65% of prisons still have learning and skills and work activities that are not good enough. 

Read the text of the speech  

Read the whole report, plus regional information packs

Read the underpinning data for the report