"The FE sector is in a mess,’ Chief HMI Sir Michael Wilshaw told the Education Select Committee during an evidence gathering session yesterday. Young people aged 16-19 should be in schools, he added.
This is the second time Sir Michael has issued a blanket condemnation of further education colleges. In his CentreForum speech in January he described them as ‘large and amorphous’ institutions where pupils who left school without reaching the benchmark did ‘badly’.
Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, has hit back. Sir Michael ‘should not be sharing his private and personal opinions about further education colleges in a public capacity’.
A statement on AoC’s website says, ‘Further education colleges provide high-quality technical and professional education and training for young people, adults and employers. They provide the 844,000 16 to 18-year-olds who choose to study or undertake apprenticeships in colleges with valuable employability skills, helping to develop their career opportunities and strengthen the local, regional and national economy. Neither schools nor UTCs have the capacity to make this provision as well as colleges.’
The AoC statement described Sir Michael’s comments as ‘unhelpful and unsubstantiated… overwhelmingly at odds with the findings of his inspectors.’
Martin Doel is correct: Ofsted’s judgements about general FE colleges undermine Sir Michael’s remarks. The FE sector, according to his own inspectors, is not overwhelmingly failing. The latest data* from Ofsted shows just nine were judged Inadequate, 39 Required Improvement, 135 were Good and 34 were Outstanding.
78% of general FE Colleges are Good or better and Sir Michael Wilshaw says the sector is ‘a mess’. As Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael’s words carry much weight. It’s a matter of great concern, then, if his personal opinions take precedence over facts.