Ofsted inspections have probably never been right up there on the average college principal’s list of “Things I Really Like”, and since Ofsted’s critical report on careers guidance in the FE sector earlier in the year, it is unlikely that they have risen much higher in the popularity stakes. Nevertheless, they are an inevitable part of the life of a college, and due preparation must be made between visits to ensure that when notice is given that the inspectors are coming in, the college is ready to receive them.
For Chesterfield College, the week of assessment came on October 7th-11th, when thirteen inspectors observed over 100 lessons throughout the week. The college’s Senior Management Team were happy that all of the hard work by college staff was recognised at the end of the week when Ofsted officially graded the college as “Good”, also highlighting some areas as outstanding.
In the Summary of Key Findings for Learners, Chesterfield was praised for a number of things including learner progress, support for learners and clear strategic direction. Another major highlight was the college’s curriculum provision with the report’s summary stating, “Leaders and managers work well with employers and external agencies to provide a highly responsive curriculum to meet local and regional needs”.
One of the external agencies that Chesterfield have worked with over recent years is EMSI, with the college purchasing our Analyst tool back in 2010. Analyst is a powerful Labour Market Information (LMI) tool, giving colleges access to local and regional occupation and industry data, information on salaries and transferrable skills, and projected local labour market trends into the future. A college with Analyst has a wealth of information at its fingertips, enabling it to make clear and informed decisions when planning a curriculum provision to suit the needs of the local economy it serves. It seems that Chesterfield has made good use of the tool, with the Ofsted report noting that, “Curriculum planning is a major strength. Managers and staff use labour market intelligence very well to plan provision in their areas. They tailor the curriculum very well to meet local and regional needs.”
Another area singled out for praise by Ofsted was in the area of Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) to learners. The report’s summary describes how “Particularly good information, advice and guidance ensure learners are on the appropriate programmes.” One of the components of this good IAG is, according to the college’s website, EMSI’s Career Coach. Like Analyst, this is also a web-based LMI tool, but whereas Analyst is geared towards curriculum planning, Career Coach has been developed to help college’s promote their curriculum offer and to help inform IAG activities by making the link between courses offered and sustainable careers.
The part played by Career Coach was summed up by Ben Owen, Head of Customer Services at the college who said, “The feedback regarding IAG was excellent. I’m confident that the use of Career Coach as an integral part of our recruitment processes from this year will yield even more positive feedback”.
We are really excited by this. The whole ethos of EMSI is to produce tools and solutions which really help our customers to serve their communities and Chesterfield’s Ofsted report shows that we are doing just this. We are pleased that our tools are helping colleges such as Chesterfield, not simply to get a good Ofsted rating, but rather to serve their local communities in new and more effective ways.