When the Deputy Director of Ofsted expresses his concerns that the Further Education sector as a whole is failing to get to grips with a certain issue, this is one of those moments where Principals have no choice but to sit up and take note. For two things are certain: firstly, whatever the issue is, you can be sure that Ofsted are going to be looking very closely to see if there are improvements, and secondly those colleges who ignore the warning or fail to address it adequately are likely to find themselves on the wrong side of the inspectors when they call.
At the 2017 AoC Autumn Curriculum Conference, Ofsted’s Deputy Director, Paul Joyce did indeed raise concerns about the state of curriculum planning within the Further Education sector. After telling his audience that providers should be looking to design curricula that are “meaningful and relevant”, he went on to make it clear that Ofsted didn’t think this was currently happening. In fact, he singled out the following concerns:
- As a general rule, curricula across the sector are not well aligned with the number of local jobs or careers
- He knew of few examples of providers who are letting local employer demand shape their curriculum
A college might react in a number of different ways to these statements. Some might say that as far as they are concerned, they already have a curriculum that is “meaningful and relevant”. Others might protest that all this is easier said than done, but in practice creating a curriculum that is well aligned with local demand is a huge task for which the resources and the knowhow just don’t exist within the college. Perhaps others might just hope that when Ofsted come to inspect, they won’t ask too many questions about the evidence that has been used to align curriculum with local demand.
Yet there is another approach that can be taken, one where the college:
- Continually seeks to evaluate whether its curriculum is meeting the needs of the ever-changing labour market
- Takes steps to use the best insight and methods available to shape a curriculum based on local demand
- Welcomes the chance to demonstrate to Ofsted the insight and evidence behind the curriculum
Over a series of short blogs in the coming week or so, we will be showing how colleges who want to take this last approach can do so. Through five simple steps, we’ll walk you through how you can design the kind of “meaningful and relevant” curriculum that Ofsted is calling for: one which really does serve the needs of students and local employers alike by being well aligned with the number of local jobs or careers, and by being shaped not by the skills the college thinks are needed, but by the skills it knows are needed in the region.
For those who want to meet Ofsted’s curriculum concerns head-on, as well as fulfil your mission to your students and local community, we hope this series will be a great help.
Watch out for the next part of this series, where we’ll be taking a look at Step 1 of Better Curriculum Alignment: Understanding Local Occupational Demand. Alternatively, contact us now to find out more.