When the words “We’ve got an Ofsted Inspection Coming Up” are first uttered, there are those that immediately descend into a state of abject terror and wonder how on earth they are going to satisfy the po-faced men from the ministry.
I have to admit to not being one of those lost souls. On the contrary, whilst I may have some concerns about the inspection process and its relevance to workplace skill development, I generally welcome Ofsted inspections as an opportunity to demonstrate the value of what we do and provide our people with a genuine sense of pride in what they have achieved.
So when our partners at Spirit Pub Company told us about their forthcoming first Ofsted inspection, we were delighted to have the opportunity to support them. Spirit are one of the leading pub companies in the UK with a nationwide portfolio of 765 outlets and famous brands such as Chef & Brewer and Flaming Grill and a focus on delivering a wide attractive choice of food and drink and a fantastic guest experience.
Spirit have developed a highly innovative Apprenticeship programme which they have fully embedded within their organisation. The current project comprises a Level 2 programme designed for their Team Players and an advanced programme for their Team Leaders. Since the start of the year, MindLeaders have been supporting learners on the advanced programme. Spirit are firmly committed to using the Apprenticeship framework as the basis for career progression and they have future plans to launch higher level programmes.
One of the reasons that we enjoy working with Spirit, is that it represents a genuine partnership. There are some organisations who simply outsource their entire vocational training requirements to an external supplier and simply check on progress now and then. That is definitely not the Spirit way. They retain total ownership of the Apprenticeship programme and as such have generated enormous commitment to a successful outcome throughout their organisation. Consequently, their learners are a joy to work with – they are highly motivated and fully up for the challenge.
That spirit (sorry!) of partnership certainly extended to the Ofsted inspection where we saw our role as being there to support Spirit throughout the process. Initial Ofsted inspections are a bit like first dates and are often tricky affairs with each party trying subtly to find out about the other. They rarely results in a Grade above Level 3 so everyone involved in the process was delighted (although perhaps not surprised) when the final report, released a few days ago, resulted in a Grade 2 (“Good”) classification for the programme.
What was even more satisfying were the wide range of positive comments about the programmes. The inspectors noted the “high success rates” and the “good development of workplace skills”. They found learners to be “highly motivated and to have high aspirations” and commented on the “high standard of training and the knowledgeable and experienced training staff”. The Inspectors also felt that the strategic leadership and management of the programme is good and that Spirit had “strong communication with their sub-contractors”
Of course, there were also a few areas to improve and we already have joint plans in place to tackle those.
All of this may of course sound a bit like an indulgent exercise in self-glorification. But that’s far from the case. This was Spirit’s Ofsted inspection and the credit should go to them. Our job, and that of our fellow training providers, was to support them.
However, what we can learn from this experience is that Ofsted inspections don’t have to be a damage limitation exercise. If you are confident in the quality of your programme and are fully prepared in every possible way, you can end up with a very positive outcome and a great opportunity to share the success throughout your organisation.