Headlines: September 12th, 2008

A report today from Ofsted looks at factors which are stopping some Further Education colleges from improving. It says strong leadership, clear vision, challenging aspirations and targets and thorough monitoring of progress all help colleges to raise the bar and move towards outstanding status.

“How colleges improve: a review of effective practice”, shows that the further education sector is improving. More than 60 per cent of colleges are now considered good or better at their inspections. That is up from just under half in the first round of Ofsted inspections.

Ofsted says no single improvement strategy will work for all colleges, but the report identifies features that are common to those institutions which have successfully lifted their standards. It also identifies factors which, it says, appear to hold back progress in colleges which failed to improve their performance over the two cycles of inspection. It finds that a clear vision and mission, promoted throughout the college by positive and supportive leaders, is central to improving students’ achievements.

The report says that the mantra “satisfactory is not good enough”, was seen in colleges that had improved considerably. Rather than settling for ‘good’, staff and learners aimed for excellence, in an environment that supported professional development with well-conceived arrangements for lesson observation linked to the updating of teachers’ skills.

Christine Gilbert, the Chief Inspector, said it was promising that overall, the FE sector was improving but she added, “It’s crucial, however, that we’re also aware of why some colleges haven’t been improving. This report also considers a number of case studies of colleges that have shown little progress, which helps us identify those factors that are impeding change as well as those that are fundamental to improvement.”