Ofsted Trends: Why a Positive New Provider Monitoring Visit may not be Good News

Posted by Carla Martinho

In early 2022 Ofsted identified a trend of apprenticeship providers who had received positive judgments during their New Provider Monitoring Visit (NPMV), going on to be judged as ‘requires improvement’ at full inspection. With 14% of all higher education institutions inspected (and their reports published) between 1 September 2022 and 28 February 2023 being awarded a ‘requires improvement’ judgement, it looks like this trend may be continuing.

A poor Ofsted grade can have wide-ranging implications, from reputational damage to the limiting or withdrawing of your contract to deliver apprenticeships.

How do you avoid following that trend?

Complacency is the enemy.

Ofsted’s feedback about this trend is that providers are lulled into a false sense of security by a positive NPMV result, so they lose their focus on quality. Even ‘outstanding’ providers need to maintain a culture of continuous improvement – a quality cycle - so use your NPMV as a catalyst for even further improvement. Did your report mention any areas where you could improve? Where there aspects of your delivery that weren’t included in the NPMV, for example preparation End Point Assessment if your apprentices weren’t yet at that stage? If so, look at that aspect of your provision through the lens of the Education Inspection Framework.

You’re not a new provider anymore.

NPMV are carried out within 24 months of starting to deliver apprenticeships, but in reality, this is more likely to be within 18 months. The fact that you’re a new provider will be considered during a NPMV.

By the time you have a full inspection, you are no longer considered a new provider. So, not only is full inspection a much longer and more detailed view of your provision, but there will be no allowance for the relative newness of your provision. You’ll be expected to deliver a good quality of education against the Education inspection framework just the same as any other provider.

If you had a NPMV as a new apprenticeship provider, don’t forget that full inspection covers all your in-scope delivery, not just apprenticeships. Particularly if you’re a large HE provider with multiple faculties and sites, check whether there are any other provision inspectors because they are directly funded by the ESFA, such as a Foundation Diploma in Art.

That was then, this is now.

New providers will normally receive their first full inspection within 18 months of the publication of their NPMV report, unless they have received one, or more than one, judgement of ‘insufficient progress’ at their monitoring visit when they will normally receive a full inspection within 6 to 12 months.

Ofsted visits and inspections are a snapshot in time and a lot can change in 18 months. Think back to when your NPMV was carried out and consider whether any changes may impact the areas inspectors will be scrutinising – whether positive or negative.

For example, have you had a change of leadership, started delivering to new Standards (particularly in different sector subject areas) or implemented any new safeguarding systems? What was the rationale for these changes? What was the expected impact and the actual impact of the changes?

Take a critical look at your Quality improvement plan (QIP) and quantify exactly how much progress you have made to improve each area of concern. If you think you haven’t made enough progress or can’t provide evidence of the impact of what you have done, this should be a red flag for those responsible for Governance in your organisation. Inspectors will give you little credit for identifying areas for improvement; if you don’t, then take appropriate and timely action.

Understand the difference between NPMV and full inspection.

An NPMV is a light-touch look at how much progress your organisation has made against the three themes as a new provider.

Full inspection will look at what you have achieved and the impact of that, rather than what progress you have made. It’s a snapshot of where you are now, not where you want to be.

The other key difference between a NPMV and full inspection is that Ofsted has more time to scrutinise your delivery in greater depth. They will talk to learners, employers, and staff, so, try to familiarise them with the kinds of questions inspectors will ask and what they are looking for when asking those questions. Learners and employers may need help understanding terminologies like sequencing of learning or safeguarding. Get apprentices used to articulating during progress reviews what they know and can do now that they didn’t last week or last year.

Full inspection is longer, deeper and wider so don’t just assume that a positive NPMV outcome will mean a good inspection judgement.

To end where we started – complacency is the enemy. Use the time between your NPMV and full inspection to push ahead with your focus on quality improvement

Find out more about how Tribal can help by getting in touch.

Check out more Ofsted-related blogs here.


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