So, how is further education doing?

After hearing of a well known further education college slip dramatically from grade 1 (outstanding) to grade 3 (satisfactory, which is now no longer). I had one of those mad thoughts as I awoke this morning to look at what the current trend is. I know what you are thinking, he must live such an adventurous life to have such wonderful (ahem dull) thoughts.

Anyway, with bee in proverbial bonnet, I went a looking on the ofsted site, unsurprisingly, it took little effort to find some data within a couple of minutes. I feel tainted to say that this site is very well organised and easy to use.
  • For September to December 2011 they reported
    Of the 23 colleges which were inspected between 1 October and 31 December 2011, one was judged outstanding for overall effectiveness and eight were judged good. Five colleges were judged inadequate – two were general further education colleges, two were sixth form colleges and one was an independent specialist college. Seven of the nine colleges which had been judged satisfactory for overall effectiveness had also been judged satisfactory for teaching and learning, the remaining two had been judged good. All of the colleges judged good or outstanding for overall effectiveness were also judged good for teaching and learning
  • For, July to September 2011, there were no further education colleges, which is normal as this is the summer recess period, Ofsted concentrated on training providers during this time.
  • For April to June 2011, they reported
    Of the 84 colleges inspected between 1 September and 30 June 2011, five were outstanding and 34 were judged to be good. Of the remaining 45, four were found to be inadequate. 
  • For January to March 2011, they reported 
    Of the 28 colleges inspected between 1 January 2011 and 31 March 2011, 12 were judged to be good or outstanding for overall effectiveness and none were judged inadequate. The remaining 16 were judged satisfactory. (authors note, I had to dig here, there was only one outstanding).
So, not the most exciting read I am sure, but one that at least gives you the facts over 2011. Breaking this down into simple numbers*, in 2011 there were:
  • 135 colleges inspected, of which
  • 7 were outstanding (grade 1)
  • 53 were good (grade 2)
  • 66 were satisfactory (grade 3)
  • 9 were inadequate (grade 4)
So, back to the what I was sharing earlier, what is the trend, well we can see that in 2011, is that at the start of the year, everyone was avoiding inadequate grades, by the second quarter, they started appearing keeping up the pace for the rest of the year.

Now, as an experienced observer, you cannot simply put it down to a sidereal chronology. There is an element of allocation chance and that in a given batch of inspections, there may be more (or less) outstanding or inadequate educational establishments.

The really interesting data is the how the percentages stack. As you can see for yourself, there are more 'weaker' educational establishments than those doing anything like needed for the skilled workforce of the nation.

There is considerable debate over that which is needed and what the ofsted inspectors are capable of finding, the reality is, they look at the data long before they look at any lessons. The grades, overall achievement, student dropout rates always tell an interesting tale.

So, with all of this, my only question is, what does satisfactory look like and what is it doing for the future of those students studying at these colleges?

*The author wishes to note that the figures don't correlate perfectly, as the annual report is based on an academic year (for example, 2010-2011).


  1. Now, why am I not surprised?

  2. What would be interesting, if someone had the time, would be to look at the data over ten years and see what is actually happening.

    Could a FOI cover that?


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