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Ofsted should delay inspections until 2021

08 April 2020

Today (Wednesday, 8 April) the Association of Colleges has called on Ofsted to continue to suspend all Ofsted inspections until January 2021 at the earliest because of the disruptions and uncertainties caused by coronavirus. Scheduled inspections should only go ahead where specific concerns have been raised about safeguarding or an inspection is requested by a college. All other inspections should be delayed with January 2021 being the earliest feasible re-start date Ofsted’s announcement on 17 March to temporarily suspend inspections was welcomed and helped ease the pressure on college leaders and their staff. However, as the measures to curb the outbreak look set to continue into the summer months Ofsted must extend it further. With colleges likely to be closed until at least September, the disruption to usual processes is profound. College staff are totally focused on supporting learning online whilst ensuring students are supported through this difficult time. We know though that the autumn term is difficult to predict, with lots of students needing extra support and resources to ‘catch up’ from an extended period at home and without face to face teaching. The capacity of colleges will be stretched, and we expect that to affect the whole academic year 2020-21. Inspecting during the autumn term would therefore be unfair. Chief Executive David Hughes said: “Delaying inspections until early next year is the right thing to do in the current circumstances. Our leaders and staff are working tirelessly to support their students and communities. Colleges will be doing everything they can in the autumn term, presuming they can open, to support students to ‘catch up’ and get back into the rhythm and habit of learning. It would therefore be unfair to ask an institution to be inspected in that same period.” Work will need to be undertaken in collaboration with the sector to consult on the changes required to the methodology once inspections resume. When inspections resume the priority needs to be supporting the changes colleges will have made and learning from this unprecedented period of closures and online learning. No college should be at a disadvantage due to the fallout of the implications of coronavirus. We will continue to work with Ofsted to ensure that routine inspections work in the best interest of students and staff.