10 Nov 2020

Ofsted: COVID-19 and the FE and Skills sector


The latest report from Ofsted on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the FE and Skills sector reveals findings on the issues faced by teachers and learners, and of the steps being taken by providers to overcome them.

Ofsted carried out more than 900 visits to education and social care providers during September and October. These interim visits are not judgemental and do not result in an inspection grade. Instead, they are a way for inspectors to hear how providers are coping with this challenging start to the new academic year. 

Five reports have been published from the visits, reflecting on the experiences of leaders working in schools, further education and skills, early years, social care and special education needs and/or disability (SEND).

The first briefing note on visits to Further Education and Skills providers reports on 36 visits to made between the 1st and the 16th of October. Some key points emerging from the visits are:

  • In general, remote learning was viewed positively. Most providers said that they will continue to use a blend of remote learning and face-to-face teaching in the future. 
  • However, learners said that they missed face-to-face learning, in particular the social aspect of seeing tutors and other learners. This was particularly the case for those with high needs, the youngest learners and those who speak English as an additional  language. Although learners (and, where relevant, parents and carers) had understood the need for remote learning, they welcomed the return to face-to-face learning. 
  • Most learners faced challenges to their learning during the period when providers were mostly closed on site. Some had difficulty accessing materials online, either through a lack of digital skills or a lack of devices. 
  • A few providers said that some of their apprentices had been unable to complete their End Point Assessments because they could not sit their functional skills exam. One provider had switched to an awarding body that could deliver functional skills assessments online so that apprentices’ progression was not held up.

More information

View the briefing note in full here

Read more about the current situation regarding online assessment of functional skills here

You may also like to read the Ofsted publication 'Online education in further education and skills: learning about what works' (July 2020). 

Ofsted’s programme of visits will continue remotely during the current lockdown, and further reports will be published in December.


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