Is an Ofsted rating important when choosing an FE employer?

Love them or hate them, we all know Ofsted ratings are important. But how important are they when choosing an employer?

Whether you’re looking for college teaching jobs or post 16 teaching jobs elsewhere, or non-teaching jobs in education, each provider will receive inspections and ratings from Ofsted on the quality of their service. While you must remember that the inspector’s focus is on the learning that is taking place and how the provider supports the students with their learning and well-being, the inspection results will still give you valuable information that can you help decide which FE employers to apply for.

Ofsted Ratings

Ofsted give an overall rating as well as individual ratings for each of the categories: effectiveness of leadership and management; quality of teaching, learning and assessment; personal development, behaviour and welfare; outcomes for learners; and adult learning programmes. Make sure when considering an employer and looking at their Ofsted rating, that you look at each individual rating, but more importantly, that you read the comments the inspectors have included. These will give you the necessary details about the provider’s strengths and weaknesses because these categories will tell you about the attitude of the learners and their success in achieving their outcomes, the integration of equality and diversity, and Prevent ideas into, the quality of teaching and learning, and the effective use of data and performance management.

For me, the two most important categories are effective leadership and learner’s personal development and behaviour because these are the two, I feel, that will you tell you the most about your possible future employer.

Effectiveness of Leadership and Management

This category judges how effective the communication between leadership and staff is, how useful the professional development is, and how successful the strategies and procedures put in place are.

A ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ in this area means you should expect:

Ø  A culture where both staff and students are encouraged to excel

Ø  Professional development is effectively tailored to suit the needs of staff and learners

Ø  A climate where staff are inspired and supported to take risks and innovate

Ø  Performance management is used to spread good practice and improve teaching and learning

These things are important because a supportive management team are a must if you are going to be able to give your students your all. You need to be able to create a stable learning environment for your pupils, which can only happen if you have a similarly stable working environment where you feel comfortable trying new things, adapting current practices, and with procedures and strategies in place which help not hinder.

Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare

This category judges how well learners feel safe, confident and able to achieve. This category will give you an idea of what you might expect to find in your classroom.

A Good or Outstanding here will suggest that:

Ø  Learners have an excellent attitude to learning which helps them make excellent progress

Ø  Issues and ideas are discussed in a way which demonstrates respect of other’s points of view

Ø  Bullying or aggressive language or behaviour is rare

Ø  Learners feel safe and confident about how and when to ask for help, they know what they need to do to improve and they are proud of their achievements

The comments for this category in the report may indicate how much of a challenge you may anticipate in terms of the motivation and commitment of your students.

The Flaws

It is important to remember that an Ofsted report is just a snapshot – an evaluation based on a short visit – not the whole picture. The inspectors won’t have seen everything or everyone in the few short days that they are there, and their focus is on the students’ learning and not what it is like to work there.

The inspections don’t happen every year. Sometimes the gap between them is short, especially if they are receiving monitoring inspections, and sometimes the gap can be really long. You need to pay attention to how long the gap between inspections have been and what changes have occurred since, as these can have a major effect on what it is like to learn and work there. For example, have there been changes in leadership, or how the provider/service is structured? Have there been changes with exam boards and qualifications? Have there been many staff leaving or the number of classes/subjects offered?

Other Considerations

As I’ve said, the report is just a small piece of the puzzle. To get as wide a view as you can, before even thinking about the Ofsted rating, you should take a good look at their website. You want to make sure their values and mission statements align with yours. While it will be geared more towards prospective students, it will include relevant and useful information which will give you an idea whether it is somewhere you would like to work.

Once you have had a careful read of both the website and the inspection report, and are armed with lots of information and questions, make sure you make time to go and visit the provider. It will give you the opportunity to ask those questions and get a feel for the place. Not only will these help you make the decision whether to apply or not, all that extra information will boost your application.

So, is it important?

In my opinion, the Ofsted rating is important insofar as it will give you information that you can use to make an informed decision. I would not just dismiss anywhere as a possible employer because it had a 3 or 4 rating without considering all the data – the website, the visit, the other employees’ views, and the comments on the report. Sometimes places with such ratings can be great places to work as everyone pulls together to make the necessary improvements to their provision and service in order to give their learners the best care and chance at success. Such places can be very high-pressured but with equally high job satisfaction. And sometimes places with higher grades feel isolating with everybody doing their own thing and no one really working together, or lots of pressure with little relief or support.

So, yes, the rating can be important, but only as one factor in many when considering a new employer, it shouldn’t be your only yardstick.

Next Steps

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