What are Ofsted inspectors looking for in 2022?

Ofsted inspections are back. From catch-up plans for learners to safeguarding protocols, here’s what makes a great Ofsted inspection in 2022.

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After a disrupted two years, Ofsted inspections are back in full force and there are plenty of new boxes that apprenticeship providers will need to tick. What makes a great Ofsted inspection in 2022?

We spoke to Richard Moore, Further Education and Skills Consultant about the latest requirements for apprenticeships and what Ofsted inspectors will be looking for this year.


What are Ofsted inspectors looking for in 2022?

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Catch-up plans for learners

The last few years will have delayed the planned end date for many learners. Reasons for this include:

  • Breaks in learning 
  • Furlough
  • Redundancy
  • Poor mental health and wellbeing

Additionally, depending on the apprenticeship, learners may also have practical off-the-job training to catch up on which wasn’t possible to facilitate during lockdown.

As Richard points out, Ofsted will be well aware of these difficulties. He explains they will tread carefully when making judgements about timely achievement or retention rates. However, they will expect y ou to demonstrate that you’re doing everything you can to get learners back up to speed.


Provide evidence of how your learners were affected

In the last few months, Ofsted inspectors have been specifically asking about learners that have fallen behind. 

Ideally, you’ll have kept timely records of how and when individual learners were affected. If you haven’t, make sure you have evidence to support any challenges or blockers your learners might have experienced, especially if it was a factor outside of your control.


Have catch-up plans in place

Ofsted will also expect trainers to have catch-up plans in place for individuals where relevant. These plans should be clear about how apprentices are catching up with their studies and their progress so far. 


Show that you’re focusing on the issue

Ultimately, Ofsted wants to see that this issue is a key focus for everyone in the business. Your strategy should be regularly reviewed by your senior leadership team and also scrutinised by governors (or equivalent).



A robust skills assessment

Ofsted will also look closely at how you decide who is a good candidate for an apprenticeship programme. That means the initial skills assessment needs to be a genuine part of the selection process – not something that’s done after they’ve already signed up. Bear in mind that Ofsted can check in with your apprentices about this.

Make sure the criteria for the skills scan is easy for learners to understand. In particular, look out for any language that’s complex because not everyone’s first language will be English. It’s also a good idea to assess learners’ current competence in English and mathematics, as they may have achieved their grades a long time ago. 

If the candidate hasn’t been in formal education for some time, don’t forget to discuss study skills like essay writing and digital capabilities. This will demonstrate to inspectors that you’re doing everything you can to ensure they’re well prepared for the rigours of the apprenticeship.


Rationale for using a blended curriculum model

While some providers were already using online platforms pre-pandemic, most made the switch during lockdown. The vast majority of providers have retained at least part of their online delivery since. 

The benefits of online delivery are well established, from increased productivity to lower costs. However, these reasons won’t be enough for Ofsted inspectors who want to see your rationale for keeping this model of learning.

Richard explains that inspectors will want you to evidence (as part of their judgements on Curriculum Intent and Implementation) that you’ve thought carefully about how best to deliver high-quality training. This includes:

  • How online training fits with any delivered face-to-face or via self study
  • That your delivery model suits learners from both a professional and personal perspective (for example, it reduces travel time or childcare costs)

“A key consideration here is what Continuing Professional Development (CPD) you have given your staff to make them confident in their delivery of high-quality training, assessment and progress reviews online,” Richard adds.


Engaging sessions from tutors

Ofsted inspectors will be looking for evidence that tutors are confident in the content they’re delivering, adept at using technology and able to create supporting resources suited to online learning. Tutors will be expected to be able to navigate between activities and mediums online as easily as they would in person.

Inspectors will also assess how well tutors can keep large groups of learners engaged and stimulated by their learning online. They will expect to see learners with cameras on, unless there’s a clear reason for audio only.

“Learners need to be stretched and challenged. Not just giving learners ‘the answers’ on a PowerPoint slide is an especially common area for improvement,” Richard said.

“I’ve also seen sessions where the tutor never invites apprentices to share their industry experiences of the topic at hand. This, I feel, is a missed opportunity and is one of the things I might look for when deciding whether I have seen a really good learning session for an apprentice.” 

Finally, inspectors will be checking that there are sufficient CPD opportunities in place to help tutors continue to improve their online delivery skills.

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“Learners need to be stretched and challenged. Not just giving learners ‘the answers’ on a PowerPoint slide is an especially common area for improvement.”

Current progress is being monitored

It’s hard to gauge providers’ true quality of provision with so many external challenges affecting data over the last two years.

The education inspection framework (EIF) had already announced it would be placing less weight on performance data before the pandemic, in order to stop schools “gaming” their data. That will be ramped up in 2022, with inspectors exploring more qualitative signs of progress.

This means a greater focus on how current learners are performing across their apprenticeship. It includes assessing their on-the-job training, the knowledge and skills they’ve developed since starting, and their behaviours in the workplace.

For example, has the apprentice gained skills that would boost their employability? Are they becoming more confident in their work? How have their capabilities developed, like being able to use technology or handle telephone calls?


Personal development and wellbeing plans

The pandemic sparked a national conversation about mental health and wellbeing. 

As a result, many companies now deliver courses on the topic, covering everything from healthy eating to mindfulness. Additionally, lots of businesses have schemes that allow staff to complete more formal mental health training or donate time to community work.

Since Ofsted will be looking for a planned programme of personal development for learners, it’s important to record any training like the above.

“Providers often miss a trick in not capturing the personal development training that a lot of apprentices receive in the workplace from their employer,” Richard explained.

“Quite a few apprenticeship providers have been given a grade three for Personal Development by Ofsted since September because of this expectation and a lack of evidence around a planned approach.”

A key aspect of personal development is to make sure you can provide evidence that training is in the context of the apprenticeship. Does it suit the level and age group of the learners?



Safeguarding protocols

Finally, safeguarding continues to be a huge focus for Ofsted, as outlined in its further education and skills handbook

Inspectors will look at how leaders and managers adapted approaches to safeguarding during the pandemic to make sure that:

  • Delivering face-to-face education for vulnerable learners was prioritised
  • Safeguarding procedures remained effective for remote learners

Important areas for investigation by Ofsted would include policies and procedures, actions taken and record keeping, staff training and awareness raising for learners.


Protecting young learners online

As Richard points out, Ofsted’s guidance only refers to “children”, or learners that are aged 18 and under. 

While that means providers with exclusively adult learners wouldn’t technically receive the same scrutiny, it’s vital to take your safeguarding responsibilities seriously regardless of the age group.

“Be sensible and move away from the ‘doing it for the sake of an Ofsted inspection’ philosophy. We all know that the risk of sexual abuse and harassment at work and personal lives does not stop at age 18,” Richard said.

“You could expect Ofsted to discuss your arrangements to keep learners safe in this regard and to raise awareness. Whether they could criticise these arrangements if all your learners are aged 18 and over is an interesting point.”


What are Ofsted inspectors looking for in 2022?

Want to download the full PDF?

View it online and save it to share with your team.

View PDF online

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