How can a provider best prepare for a full Ofsted inspection?

The first blog in our series focused on support to Apprenticeship Training Providers highlighted how a training provider could best prepare for their New Provider Monitoring Visit (NPMV). In this, our second instalment, we are looking at how to prepare for a full inspection.

Moving on from a NPMV

If you have had a NPMV from Ofsted, you now need to prepare for a full inspection. These normally take place within 24 months of the publication of the report of the monitoring visit. However, where a provider has received one or more ‘insufficient progress’ judgements at the monitoring visit, they will normally receive their full inspection within six to 12 months of publication. Furthermore, due to the pandemic, these periods between inspections may well have been extended.

What is the difference between a NPMV and a full inspection?

The key difference between a NPMV and a full inspection is that with a NPMV the focus was simply on looking at the progress made against the three themes of the visit. A full inspection will make judgements regarding all aspects of the Education Inspection Framework (EIF). It is important that managers of providers awaiting a full inspection have a good understanding of the EIF as described within the Further Education and Skills Inspection Handbook. A copy is available here:

Although providers are no longer required by funding agencies to have a self-assessment report, it will be very useful to produce one of these annually, with an associated quality improvement plan (QIP). These do not have to be weighty documents; it is best if these are succinct and working documents that are driving improvements.

With the NPMV report there will typically have been a few areas of weakness identified. It is essential that providers can describe what has been done since the NPMV to address these issues and demonstrate impact. A self-assessment report and QIP are the obvious places to describe how these improvements have been implemented and the progress made.

The NPMV will usually have taken place over two days with two or three inspectors, depending on the size of the provision. A full inspection will often be over three or four days depending on the size of apprenticeship cohort. The number of inspectors will typically be greater than for a monitoring visit. As with the NPMV you will be given two days notice of the inspection.

What is involved in a full Ofsted inspection?

The initial call from the lead inspector will identify the focus of the inspection and what are termed the subject of the ‘deep dives.’ These are the specific courses and groups that inspectors will be looking at. The lead inspector will discuss these programmes with the nominee and check details such as the numbers of learners/apprentices on each programme, and their schedules during the inspection week.

The lead inspector will describe the details of the deep dives. These will include:

  • direct observation of teaching, training and assessment, meetings and discussions with teachers, trainers and other staff (in particular subject specialists and subject leaders to understand the intent and implementation of the curriculum). Inspectors will visit lessons, workshops or sessions where teaching, training, learning and assessment are happening. This may include visits to online lessons. Inspectors may often invite appropriate staff from the provider to take part in joint observations of these learning sessions. Observation is primarily useful for gathering evidence about curriculum implementation and how teaching and training sessions contribute to the quality of education and training
  • interviews and discussions with learners (these may happen in formal planned meetings or in more informal settings)
  • scrutinising learners’ work – with e-portfolio login access required. Inspectors scrutinise learners’ work across the provider to gain insights to provide part of the evidence for an overall view of quality of education, primarily around the impact of the education provided
  • evaluating learning materials, including resources for online and/or remote learning, and learners’ use of them
  • analysing provider and learner records, showing planning for, and monitoring of, learners’ individual progress and destinations from their starting points when they began their courses or apprenticeships
  • assessing learners’ progress
  • a key focus is examining what learners know, understand, and can do and make as a result of their learning

The lead inspector will ask the nominee to put together a schedule for each inspector through which these activities can take place.

The lead will also ask for key information to be uploaded to the Ofsted portal to support planning. Managers need to ensure that such information is readily available. These could include:

  • List of all apprentices, their apprenticeship, and their employers (with contact details, start date and proposed end dates)
  • Safeguarding action plan/QIP/impact
  • Safeguarding meeting minutes
  • Governors’ minutes
  • Self-assessment – Quality Improvement Plan
  • Senior leadership meeting minutes
  • List of all vulnerable learners
  • List of all learning/review sessions occurring over the duration of the inspection. Is there any off-the-job training? What reviews etc., are planned? Is it face to face or remote?
  • Structure chart
  • Any reviews by managers of the quality of learning and assessment and any resulting staff development activities.

Inspectors will be assigned particular roles to pull together the key judgements based on the evidence gathered by inspectors in their deep dives. On a full inspection, inspectors will make an overall effectiveness judgement and key judgements on:

  • the quality of education
  • behaviour and attitudes
  • personal development
  • leadership and management

Inspectors use the following 4-point scale to make all judgements, including, where applicable, on the effectiveness of the different types of provision offered:

Grade 1: Outstanding

Grade 2: Good

Grade 3: Requires improvement

Grade 4: Inadequate

For apprenticeship providers, inspectors will consider how well leaders and managers ensure that the apprenticeship curriculum meets the principles and requirements of an apprenticeship.

Inspectors will gather evidence to establish the extent to which the provider’s staff engage with employers to:

  • complete the apprenticeship commitment statement
  • plan the initial assessment, training, assessments, review points and milestones throughout
  • agree any additional qualifications to be included
  • monitor and support apprentices, including those with SEND and those who have high needs, to progress quickly, gain new knowledge, skills and behaviours and achieve to their full potential.

Inspectors will judge how well trainers, assessors, coaches and mentors communicate up-to-date vocational and technical subject knowledge that reflects expected industry practice and meets employers’ needs.

They will determine whether apprentices acquire that knowledge effectively so that they demonstrate the required skills and behaviours that enable them to complete their apprenticeships, contribute to their workplace and fulfil their career aims by progressing to their intended job roles or other sustained employment, promotion or, where appropriate, moving to a higher level of apprenticeship or qualification.

Inspectors will also consider whether arrangements for safeguarding young people and vulnerable learners are appropriate and effective.


During the inspection week the activities described above will be undertaken and also a series of meetings will be scheduled.

An initial team meeting to:

  • brief the inspection team on the schedule for the inspection
  • clarify any queries about team members’ roles
  • receive a brief update from the provider – normally the CEO or principal will provide a brief (10 minute max) presentation giving the context for the provider, why they are providing the programmes, some key strengths and maybe a few areas that they are improving,

At the end of the first few days there will be a meeting for the nominee to hear the emerging judgements and identify any opportunities to provide additional evidence.

Each subsequent morning a ‘keep in touch’ meeting will take place where the nominee can provide responses to issues raised during the feedback meeting of the previous evening.

At the end of the inspection a grading meeting will take place to reach judgements about the provider.


The nominee plays a key role in all of the above and the qualities required to be an effective nominee and details of the role will be covered in our next blog, coming soon!


Should you need immediate assistance in reviewing your provision, preparing for you NPMV/full inspection, or compiling your QIP, please do not hesitate to contact us to start a conversation.


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