Headlines: February 12th, 2003

The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) and the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) have started to consult on a framework for the inspection of education and training for 14-19 year olds. Local Learning and Skills Councils, Local Education Authorities and others with an interest such as headteachers and principals of colleges are invited to give their views before 12 May 2003.Ofsted has led inspections since 1999 and found standards to be generally poor, but it claims that its focus was on areas where “the challenge to raise achievement and participation was particularly acute.” The National Audit Office has also looked at the value for money provided by further education colleges. The NAO found that almost half the 3.8 million students who attend the 400 colleges fail to achieve the qualifications they are seeking. The failure rate takes into account students dropping out of courses as well as failing to achieve the required standard. The NAO also discovered that the gap between the best and worst performing colleges is extremely wide. The cost of further education to the public purse is about 3 billion pounds.

The new inspection framework requires inspectors to find out whether there is coherent progression from school to post-compulsory education and training, and how much providers are collaborating to enhance the opportunities available to learners, so that every young person has local access to a wide curriculum.

A pilot inspection will be carried out next month in Sandwell, part of the area covered by the Black Country Learning and Skills Council.