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Ofsted Seeks to Make Oversight of Subcontractors More Comprehensive and Transparent

Ofsted has published new research looking at subcontractors in the further education and skills sector.

New research by Ofsted finds that subcontractors in the further education and skills (FES) sector often have overall control of the day-to-day quality of a learner’s education and training. However, directly-funded providers do not always exert enough influence to manage the subcontracted provision well. For example, they might not have the necessary subject or industry expertise to review provision meaningfully.

The research also found that the current approach to inspection means that some subcontractors are visited more than once, while others are not visited at all.

While Ofsted is not funded to directly inspect subcontractors, the research proposes a more comprehensive and transparent approach to improve oversight.

The report, ‘Subcontracting in further education and skills’, recognises the acute economic challenges FES providers are facing as a result of COVID-19, as well as the broader decline in subcontracted provision over recent years. It explores what makes for high-quality FES provision delivered through subcontracting and asks how inspection and regulation might need to adapt as a result of a rapidly evolving landscape.

Ofsted is responsible for inspecting the quality of education offered by directly-funded FES providers, but inspectors do not report on all subcontracted provision. However, the inspectorate has increased its focus on subcontracting over the past 2 years, in response to concerns about the quality of some subcontractors.

Currently, Ofsted inspections give a rounded judgement of a directly- funded provider by sampling activities across the provision. The choice of subcontractors to sample is made within practical constraints, such as their location. These activities then inform the leadership and management judgement of the directly- funded provider and, where appropriate, the quality of education judgement.

The report suggests there are limitations to this approach and concludes that the oversight of subcontracted education could be improved by sampling more subcontracted provision. Therefore, Ofsted is seeking to make inspecting and reporting on subcontracted provision more comprehensive and transparent by:

  • working with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to improve access to timely and accurate data on the number and size of subcontracting arrangements held by a directly-funded provider
  • increasing awareness among inspectors of Ofsted’s available inspection resource, in order to investigate more subcontractors
  • changing the way evidence is recorded to systematically and consistently include information about all subcontractors visited
  • where appropriate, highlighting more subcontractors in inspection reports

In particular, more accurate data from the ESFA would allow Ofsted to arrange to visit subcontracted provision that was far away, because out-of-region resources could be factored into planning.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, said:

The financial stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic and ESFA’s tighter regulations around subcontracting make this an important and timely report. Over the past two years we have increased our focus on the management of subcontracted provision. However, this new research has highlighted the importance of reviewing subcontractors within our current model.

We are open to exploring how we could directly inspect subcontractors in the future, but that would need significantly more financial resource and better data. So, for now we will continue to inspect subcontractors as part of our inspections of directly-funded providers. But I’m confident that the changes set out in today’s report will make our oversight more meaningful and transparent.

The report is based on visits to 14 subcontractors in November and December last year; focus groups with 38 inspectors; and desk-based analysis of inspection reports and evidence bases, as well as other publicly available data on subcontracting.

ESFA Update: 16 September 2020

Latest information and actions from the Education and Skills Funding Agency for academies, schools, colleges, local authorities and further education providers.


ESFA Update further education: 16 September 2020

ESFA Update academies: 16 September 2020

ESFA Update local authorities: 16 September 2020


Items for further education

ActionAdditional traineeships performance-management point
ActionCall out for user testing
ReminderFE teacher training grants and bursaries for 2020 to 2021 academic year
ReminderColleges, please submit the DfE educational settings status form each day
InformationNational Apprenticeship Awards 2020 open for entries
InformationFunding Higher Risk Organisations and Subcontractors Policy
InformationView Your Payments public beta
InformationReminder of business case deadline 30 September 2020: financial support for independent learning providers (ILPs) delivering 16 to 19 study programmes
InformationLaunch of NHS COVID-19 Test and Trace App
InformationReviewing qualifications before the moratorium in the November 2020 review month
InformationFE Mentor Training Programme
InformationOversight of ITPs and large provider team
InformationEnglish and maths requirements in apprenticeship standards at level 2 and above
InformationChanges to funding rules monitoring reports
Feedback16 to 19 statement and supporting guidance

Items for academies

ActionCall out for user testing
ReminderNew academic year, new governance appointments
InformationReminder of business case deadline 30 September 2020: financial support for independent learning providers (ILPs) delivering 16 to 19 study programmes
InformationThemes arising from ESFA’s assurance work 2019 to 2020
InformationNational roll-out of the early career framework (ECF)

Items for local authorities

ActionAdditional traineeships performance-management point
InformationReminder of business case deadline 30 September 2020: financial support for independent learning providers (ILPs) delivering 16 to 19 study programmes
InformationDedicated Schools Grant (DSG) management template
InformationNational roll-out of the early career framework (ECF)
Feedback16 to 19 statement and supporting guidance

Published 16 September 2020

ESFA Update: 9 September 2020

Latest information and actions from the Education and Skills Funding Agency for academies, schools, colleges, local authorities and further education providers.


ESFA Update further education: 9 September 2020

ESFA Update academies: 9 September 2020

ESFA Update local authorities: 9 September 2020


Items for further education

Reminder16 to 19 tuition fund opt-in template deadline 16 September 2020
Informationclosure of Register of Training Organisations
InformationKeeping Children Safe in Education
Informationnew educational technology (EdTech) support for FE teacher and trainers
Your feedbacksurvey on Functional Skills assessment

Items for academies

Actionsubmit your budget forecast return 3-year 2020 before the deadline
Informationrequirement to publish salaries on trust websites
InformationKeeping Children Safe in Education

Items for local authorities

InformationKeeping Children Safe in Education

Published 9 September 2020

ViewPoint: Unlocking the Post-Covid Potential of Apprenticeships

By John Yarham, Interim CEO of The Careers & Enterprise Company.

The A level results season revealed much about our prevailing national mind-set and attitudes to learning and qualifications.

John Yarham, Interim CEO of The Careers & Enterprise Company

Amid the outcry and confusion about school leavers’ prospects for admission to university, was an almost deafening silence about the impact of Covid and exam-grading on those seeking to move from education into employment or training. – the course the majority take.

The issue takes us down a well-trodden path of discord between academic qualifications versus vocational learning and pathways.

The pivotal importance of apprenticeships

recent report by the Centre for Social Justice highlighted the pivotal importance of apprenticeships in developing learning, skills and providing opportunity. It also identified the challenges we face in unleashing their full potential, including the perennial problem about raising the status of apprenticeships in the UK.

Unlike Germany, we don’t have a Mittelstand, which creates a significant demand-pull for apprenticeships and places a premium on technical skills and learning; our services dominated economy leans towards different skills sets and our education system has built-in incentives that have tended to push pupils towards academic choices over vocational.

We also face immediate pandemic related pressures that seem likely, certainly in the short-term, to limit opportunity. Many employers have made business-survival decisions to put apprenticeship intake on hold. In such circumstances, opportunities to create apprenticeship places will be at a premium.

Employers determined to support young people despite many predicting a downturn in apprenticeship places

However, despite the immediate and long-standing challenges, evidence also points to a growing awareness about the importance of apprenticeships, both in providing opportunity to young people and developing the talent the economy needs. In August, the Government seized an opportunity to increase the number of nursing apprenticeships as a response to the surge of interest in health careers.

In a recent poll by Savanta Comres for The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC), of business leaders amongst Britain’s largest employers, more than three quarters (77%) said employers should be now looking to increase apprenticeships. A similar proportion (76%) said there was now an increased need to support young people entering work.

Teachers now recognise employability skills as more important than exams

Educators are also increasing their recognition of the apprenticeship route. More than four in five schools (83%) without a sixth form now report through the CEC’s Compass platform that their young people have had the full range of information on apprenticeships. This drops slightly to 79 percent in schools with sixth forms – a sign of the lingering incentive towards academic routes. However, it is a vast improvement from 44 percent in 2017.

Teachers now recognise employability skills are more important than academic qualifications in preparing young people for their working lives. In a recent poll of 5,000 teachers by Teacher Tapp, almost three-quarters – 74% – say skills like teamwork and public speaking will equip pupils to secure a good job in these uncertain economic times. In contrast, 62% say the same about good academic qualifications.

9 out of 10 Young People have now had apprenticeships discussed with them

Young people themselves say they are now more aware of apprenticeships. The recent Youth Voice Census found that 86 percent of young people have had apprenticeships discussed with them. Our own Future Skills research, which identifies the impact of careers education on young people’s decision making about their next steps, found that 55 percent say they have thought about whether an apprenticeship is right for them and 58 percent have thought about whether moving straight to work after education is best next step for them.

What is certain, particularly in the current challenging and uncertain environment, is that more support will be necessary to unlock the true potential of apprenticeships. Government’s package of support for Kickstart, training and apprenticeships is timely step in that direction. Allied to such measures, enabling schools and colleges to refocus on equipping their students to make informed and ambitious decisions regarding their futures is more important than ever.

This support will be vital in providing a bridge between the crisis management solutions necessary to combat the immediate effects of the pandemic and a longer-term recovery plan with apprenticeships at the forefront.

John Yarham, interim CEO, The Careers & Enterprise Company

National Apprenticeship Awards 2020 Open for Entries

Calling all apprentices, employers, and individuals who champion apprenticeships – as the National Apprenticeship Awards 2020 are now open for entries.

The National Apprenticeship Awards 2020 logo.
  • Open for entries between 1 and 25 September 2020
  • New for 2020, national and regional ceremonies broadcast online
  • Apprentice employers, apprentices and apprenticeship champions from all sectors and levels are encouraged to enter

Back for their 17th year, the National Apprenticeship Awards are a fantastic opportunity to showcase the apprentices and employers who have gone above and beyond, in spite of the challenges faced during this pandemic.

Entries to the awards are open until 25 September 2020 and this year’s winners will be recognised via virtual ceremonies. These ceremonies will also champion employers, apprentices and apprenticeship champions from all sectors – from engineering, digital, healthcare and science, to beauty, manufacturing and education are invited to enter the awards.

Peter Mucklow, Director of Apprenticeships, Education and Skills Funding Agency said:

We are pleased to announce that entries to the National Apprenticeship Awards 2020 are open. It is important that we continue to recognise the employers of all sizes, apprentices and those who champion apprentices during this unprecedented time.

I have been delighted by the on-going commitment from employers, recognising the many benefits apprentices bring and ensuring they can continue their studies.

We are excited to announce that for the first time, the winners and highly commended will be announced at regional and national virtual ceremonies. This will allow an even wider audience to celebrate the success, commitment and investment in apprenticeships, and the impact they have. I am personally very much looking forward to being part of these exciting new online ceremonies.

Categories for the National Apprenticeship Awards 2020 are:
Employer of the Year categories
  • SME Employer of the Year (for organisations with 1 to 249 employees)
  • Large Employer of the Year (for organisations with 250 to 4,999 employees)
  • Macro Employer of the Year (for organisations with 5,000+ employees)
  • Recruitment Excellence (the winner is selected from Employer of the Year award entries, and will be awarded to an organisation that has recruited a diverse and high quality apprenticeship workforce).
Apprentice of the Year categories
  • Intermediate Level (level 2)
  • Advanced Level (level 3)
  • Higher or Degree Level (level 4 or higher)
  • Rising Star1 (nominated by their employer, this award recognises apprentices that have made impressive progress in their career to date, and have the potential to go even further).
  • Apprentice Champion (recognises individuals who go ‘above and beyond’ to champion apprenticeships. The nomination is made by a colleague or contact who recognises an individual’s ‘champion’ credentials).

In 2019, Invotra was crowned the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT Award for National SME Employer of the Year at the National Apprenticeship Awards.

HR Director, Alison Galvin, explained at the time:

Invotra are overjoyed to have won the national award. When you invest your time in people and support them as they grow, you end up with loyal, hardworking individuals who are a huge asset within your business. It’s truly wonderful to be recognised for our hard work to champion apprenticeships and our dedication to investing time into mentoring and developing these valued team members.

Entries to the awards close on 25 September. Regional ceremonies will take place between 2 and 6 November, with the national ceremony taking place on Wednesday 25 November.

To enter the National Apprenticeship Awards 2020, or to sign up to our mailing list, please visit: appawards.co.uk

Follow @Apprenticeships on Twitter and the National Apprenticeship Service page on LinkedIn to keep up to date with all the latest awards information.

  1. Please note: The Rising star will not include a public vote this year due to the condensed format of the awards. 
ESFA Update: 2 September 2020

Latest information and actions from the Education and Skills Funding Agency for academies, schools, colleges, local authorities and further education providers.


ESFA Update further education: 2 September 2020

ESFA Update academies: 2 September 2020

ESFA Update local authorities: 2 September 2020

Items for further education
Actionsubcontracting declarations (including nil returns) – final deadline for providers who missed 31 August deadline
Informationindependent training providers (ITP) financial forecasts
Informationclaims for 16 to 19 Bursary Fund for students in defined vulnerable groups
Informationincentive payment for hiring new apprentices – applications go live
InformationNational Apprenticeship Awards 2020 open for entries
Items for academies
InformationAcademies Financial Handbook 2020 digital version published
Your feedbackfinance networking events survey
Items for local authorities
Informationupdated consistent financial reporting (CFR) framework 2020 to 2021
InformationThe School Information (England) Regulations 2020

Published 2 September 2020

The £2bn Kickstart Scheme Opens

The £2 billion Kickstart Scheme launched on 2nd September 2020 and is now open to any employer.

The DWP has produced A Guide for Employers and there is a page for young people on the jobhelp website here.

Some key details:

  • On top of the wage subsidy, £1,500 per job placement available for setup costs, support and training.
  • Applications are for minimum 30 job placements. Employers can partner with other orgs to reach the minimum number.
  • If your organisation is creating more than 30 job placements as part of the #Kickstart Scheme, you can submit your application directly here https://www.apply-kickstart-grant-employer.service.gov.uk
  • If your organisation is creating fewer than 30 Kickstart job placements, you must partner with others which could include:
    • similar employers
    • local authorities
    • trade bodies
    • registered charities

If you are a representative applying on behalf of a group of employers, you can get £300 of funding to support associated admin costs. More information about being a representative is here

The Kickstart Scheme

The Kickstart Scheme is a £2 billion fund to create hundreds of thousands of high quality 6-month work placements for young people aged 16-24, who are claiming Universal Credit.

Employers of all sizes looking to create quality jobs for young people can apply. Through the scheme, all organisations across the private, public and voluntary sectors will be able to access a large pool of young people with potential, ready for an opportunity.

The Government will fully fund each ‘Kickstart’ job – paying 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus the associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions. There will also be funding available to support young people to develop new skills and to help them move into sustained employment after they have completed their Kickstart Scheme funded job.

Tracy Fishwick, Managing Director at Transform Lives Company, said:

“This is a very significant intervention in the labour market. It provides the opportunity to support the life chances of hundreds of thousands of young people who otherwise may be scarred by long-term unemployment.

“The best of Kickstart will ensure the investment works as hard as it can for a good and fair economy, that it works for the young people who need it the most and that it prevents short-term, low quality, cheap labour”.

Sam Windett, Director of Policy at Impetus and Chair of the Youth Employment Group says: 

“Young people have been hit hardest in the jobs market, with nearly one in seven in the benefit count and youth unemployment due to rise further as furlough unwinds.

“As the government’s Kickstart scheme launches, it’s “job starting” not “job done”.

“Employers, intermediaries and jobcentres have to get this right to ensure there are quality opportunities for the young people who need them.”

Read an article in FE NEWS ‘Kickstart Scheme Opens – New £2bn scheme will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs for young people’ here. 

You can find further information on the Kickstart Scheme at www.gov.uk/kickstart

Ofsted News – Issue 93 – August 2020
September 1, 2020


COVID-19 updates
Ofsted: COVID-19 rolling update – This sets out our guidance and information relating to COVID-19 (coronavirus) for schools, early years, children’s social care and further education and skills providers. We are updating it regularly. If you need to see what we’ve added since you last checked it, you can select ‘history‘ on the page and this lists all the updates.

All Ofsted
Ofsted statement on new Ofqual board committee – Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector (HMCI) Amanda Spielman will chair a new board committee at Ofqual until the end of 2020.
Deferring Ofsted inspections – Updated what the policy applies to and information about deferrals due to COVID-19.
Ofsted pen portraits of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMIs) – Updated South East and North East, Yorkshire and Humber HMI pen portraits.

Inspections of unregistered schools: guidance for inspectors – Handbook updated throughout to reflect current arrangements for inspecting unregistered schools.
State-funded school inspections and outcomes: management information – Published management information as at 31 July 2020 and updated the release schedule to include the upcoming publication date.
Changes to Ofsted’s statistical reporting of inspection outcomes for state-funded schools: an analysis of the changes – Replaced the document ‘Changes to Ofsted’s statistical reporting of inspection outcomes for state-funded schools: historical datasets’. The total number of pupils on the 31 August 2016 tab was from 2017. The dataset has been updated to correctly show the total number of pupils from 2016. For the vast majority of schools, the difference in the number of pupils shown is minor.
Initial teacher education: inspections and outcomes as at 30 June 2020 – Official statistics covering outcomes from initial teacher education inspections in the 2019 to 2020 academic year. We have also included a glossary of terms for this.

Children’s social care
Press release: Ofsted to visit local authorities and children’s social care providers – Ofsted will begin visits to local authorities and children’s social care providers from September 2020.
Social care plans from September 2020 – Updated with information about assurance visits that Ofsted will carry out from September 2020. There is more detailed guidance on assurance visits on the relevant pages for:

Ofsted’s social care blog: Children’s social care visits: what to expect – Yvette Stanley, Ofsted’s National Director for Regulation and Social Care, talks about our children’s social care visits that will start this autumn.
Inspection outcomes of children’s homes – Uploaded children’s homes management information for inspections carried out between 1 April 2020 and 30 June 2020. Also updated the release schedule for 2020.

Further education and skills
No updates this month other than information in our COVID-19 rolling update relating to further education and skills.

Early years and childcare
News story: Ofsted to visit nurseries and childminders this autumn – Ofsted will start carrying out visits to some nurseries and childminders from September 2020.
Education plans from September 2020 – Updated details of early years interim visits and added link to new early years operational note.
Joiners and leavers in the childcare sector – Management information aggregating monthly joiners and leavers on our registers. A time-series of joiners and leavers includes data since April 2020.
Consented addresses for childminders and domestic childcare – Updated consented addresses for childminders and domestic childcare as at 31 July 2020.

ESFA Update: 26 August 2020

Latest information and actions from the Education and Skills Funding Agency for academies, schools, colleges, local authorities and further education providers.


ESFA Update further education: 26 August 2020

ESFA Update academies: 26 August 2020

ESFA Update local authorities: 26 August 2020


Items for further education

InformationLetter from Eileen Milner to college corporation accounting officers
InformationESFA/HMRC debt and fraud data sharing pilot
InformationWave 4 T Level awarding organisation events
InformationMaking data collections via the Submit Learner Data portal
Information2019 to 2020 Year End for grant funded providers with Adult Education Budget delivery

Items for academies

InformationLetter to accounting officer at academy trusts

Items for local authorities

ActionTell us if your contact details have changed

Published 26 August 2020

Delay to Start of KICKSTART Scheme



THOUSANDS of job hunters applying for the government’s flagship scheme to help young workers have been left in limbo as employers are told to pull ads.

In July Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the £2billion Kickstart scheme, aimed at getting hundreds of thousands of unemployed 16-24-year-olds into work.

Under the scheme the government will subsidise the wage costs for young people claiming Universal Credit who are hired by employers for six-month work placements.

Employers should have been able to apply for the scheme this month but now some have been told to stop advertising jobs until a start date is confirmed.

Some recruitment sites say they have removed adverts and slam the government for not giving employers a date for when they can apply, reports This is Money.

Charlie Johnson, CEO of graduate recruitment firm Brighter Box, told the Sun they’ve been inundated with requests from job applicants.

He said: “We wrote a quick overview of what we knew about the scheme for our website and were subsequently inundated with loads of requests for further information.

“I’ve spoken with several employers who are hoping to take advantage of the scheme – some of whom are looking to hire tens of sales people on a 25 hour per week basis (i.e. the amount that the government will be funding these positions).  

“But we haven’t run with any of the twenty or so requests we’ve had so far to advertise roles as companies are awaiting further news”

Kickstart was announced as part of an emergency package to try and limit the unemployment caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Resolution Foundation has forecast the scheme will help find jobs for around 350,000 youngsters in that age group.

A DWP spokesperson said:

“It’s fantastic that so many employers, like Tesco, already want to sign up to our £2 billion Kickstart scheme, and we’ll be publishing further details on how they can shortly.

“Until then, we urge employers to be patient and to not start advertising roles they want to be covered by the scheme just yet – there’s no cap on Kickstart places available, so no-one will miss out.”

Dire forecasts from experts have predicted more than a million youngsters will be out of work this year.

Think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research said 410,000 18 to 24-year-olds were already jobless.

And it forecast 620,000 more would be out of work in the next six months.

Meanwhile, unemployment as a whole could treble to reach three million, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has predicted.

The predicted 1.03million total would be the highest since comparable records began in 1992.

The scheme will cover 100 per cent of the minimum wage for a maximum of 25 hours a week — with firms able to top up wages.

For example, young people between 21 and 24 years old on minimum wage currently earn £8.20 an hour, working out as £205 for 25 hours.

It comes as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has warned that the unemployment rate could reach 15 per cent if a second virus wave hits.

Roughly 9.3million workers in the UK have been furloughed due to the pandemic.