The impact of an Ofsted inspection is huge on the education provider concerned, irrespective of what level of education the provider offers. The same is true of the inspections carried out by a body known as ISI who carry out inspections of private schools on behalf of the DfE whose inspections are monitored by Ofsted for consistency across the world of education. The agencies concerned usually know when they are likely to be inspected again and are usually given a 24 or 48 hour warning of an inspection as a matter of courtesy, but this is nowhere near long enough to make major changes to the plans for the period and only gives time for a modest tidying up of work spaces. Because of this, the inspections often reveal elements of organisation that are both good and bad which tend to get overlooked by the daily routine within such bodies. Bearing in mind Ofsted and the ISI carry out their inspections on behalf of the DfE it is not unreasonable to ask when and how the DfE is inspected and who gets to read the inspection reports. After all the majority of an Ofsted or ISI inspection is made public!
Although this news is over a month old, I came across this report via twitter a couple of days ago. It explains how the DfE operates using one specific example. Anyone who is interested in discovering if this is out of the ordinary, could read my blog from the beginning of September which explains how the department gave apprenticeship providers 6 weeks to tender for funding to deliver courses, only to decide on the last working day of the process to change the criteria for the application. Todays blog is about a similar last minute decision which appears to have originated in the same department. After enabling Schools and qualification bodies to prepare for the year ahead in terms of vocational qualifications, the department announced its decision that certain of these course would not count in the league tables used to determine if a School or College is performing well, and may be withdrawn during the time the course would take to run. The decision by the DfE, to withdraw accreditation from certain courses offered by the AQA exam board led to a statement on its website which said nine of its technical awards had not been approved because the government “advised us of some further changes that are needed to our draft specifications”. These qualifications were: child learning and development, fashion and textiles, food and catering, health and social care, IT, material technology, sport, Stem and visual communication. While schools can still teach the draft specifications if they want to, the draft qualifications will not count towards league tables in 2019.
“Continuing to teach these draft qualifications at this stage means accepting the risk that the qualification may not be offered in 2019 and that the content or assessment may change,” AQA said. The board said it was “absolutely committed” to ensuring the new qualifications were “wholly fit for purpose” and that it was working towards including them in the 2020 performance tables.
It seems clear that the DfE and its processes need to be inspected by experienced inspectors who can resolve where the cause of such last minute decisions orginate from. They could be due to a lack of resources in the department, or they could be due to poor practices within the DfE or they could be due to political mismanagement. Any of these or indeed perhaps other causes need to be addressed by the current Minister, responsible for the Department, Justine Greening. She needs to be held to account for her failure to address such failings.