#UKFEchat go to Ofsted by Carolyn O'Connor @clyn40

Last year saw several school teachers actively involved on Twitter get invited to discuss concerns over inspection processes with Ofsted. It was great to read their blogs following these meetings, and a step in the right direction for ensuring consistency of Ofsted inspections. However those of us within the further education sector (particularly #ukfechat) wondered if anyone from Ofsted wanted to listen to us. Well the answer was YES, and on Tuesday the 3rd of March 2015 we got our chance. This was thanks to a lot of hard work done by Sarah Simons over a period of time (I think she may have sold her soul too, but we are not allowed to talk about that).

We all arrived at Ofsted HQ in London with a clear agenda on what we would like to discuss. Here are the four themes:

  • Lesson observations and grading
  • Maths and English
  • Data
  • Consistency in observations and expertise

None us really knew what to expect and with only an hour it seemed unlikely we would get through everything. Once we had all arrived and were ‘lanyarded up’ we could not help acting like we were on a school trip. So yes, the obligatory pose infront of the Ofsted sign and several selfies later we were escorted up to Lorna Fitzjohn’s office. As there was several of us (ten in total) the lift up resembled a scene from 'Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure'. We did try for a selfie of this but alas, Sarah, despite previously threatening me with her selfie stick, failed to bring it.

Just so you know, as there seemed to be some interest in biscuits at the past Ofsted meetings, they were very posh and individually wrapped. It turns out further education teachers are not so interested in biscuits, as they remained untouched.

Lorna greeted us and my nerves eased a little when I saw she had no devil horns or giant pitch fork in her hand. To be fair she did most of the talking but that was down to her addressing each theme Sarah put to her. Several of us added our thoughts, experiences of Ofsted inspections and questions in relation to the themes as well.

Here are some of my personal notes and thoughts from the meeting:

  • Information discussed on the training of new inspectors suggests a timely and rigorous process. Also Ofsted are currently seeking more practitioners within FE to be trained up. I would be interested in hearing more about what goes into the training. 
  • From what was said of the pilot scheme for non graded observations there is a mixed response to not having them. As it is no longer required in schools one would hope it will be the same for FE. However I think we are likely to still have graded observations, I could be wrong though. Personally the I think the focus on feedback and support for teachers is more important than knowing what grade you are.
  • Ofsted are well aware of the issues with English and maths and can see it is a major issue at present. Lorna acknowledged the challenge we have of getting students through GCSEs in a year as opposed to two years. However that is in the hands of the DfE.
  • It seems that demographic data is considered when inspecting. However coming from a seaside town many of our secondary schools have not felt that this is the case. Also with regards to data it would be looked at electronically unless for some reason it needs looking into further.
  • Lorna seemed committed to the standardisation of inspections and made a point of saying that Ofsted should be contacted if people thought that a consistency of standards wasn't being upheld. In addition to this no lesson plans are required if there is a detailed scheme of work.

The meeting went well and UKFEchat has been invited back later this year to discuss thoughts on how the new CIF is going within FE.