The general nature of Stage 2 and Stage 3 visits is outlined in Section 3.2 of the Accreditation Handbook, where it is indicated that Stage 2 may involve a visit by one inspector for one day, while Stage 3 will normally involve at least two inspectors for two days. A third inspector may be required for visits to larger colleges (more than 500 ftes) or those with a diverse academic programme.
The main purposes of the Stage 3 inspection are to assess what is observed during the visit and to consider the evidence regarding the college’s ability to maintain and indeed raise standards in the long term. Consideration of the documentation provided before the visit will help in this respect and also, along with the Stage 2 inspection, where it occurred, helps the inspectors to identify issues within the eight Areas of Operation detailed below, which will be discussed with key staff.
The precise format of a Stage 3 inspection visit is likely to vary in relation to the size, nature, location and complexity of the college, though the likely format will be agreed during the Stage 2 visit or by correspondence between the Principal and ASIC staff. It is expected, however, that the inspectors will:
- meet the Principal,
- hold an introductory meeting with all staff if possible, or with senior staff, to introduce themselves and outline the nature of the inspection,
- undertake an initial tour of all of the premises,
- undertake a detailed survey of the library,
- assess the IT provision for staff and students,
- assess laboratory and audio visual equipment,
- visit the refreshment areas,
- meet a representative group of staff without senior managers being present,
- observe a number of teaching sessions (and provide informal feedback after the observation),
- meet a representative group(s) of students without any staff being present,
- hold a final meeting with the Principal to give an informal report of their findings, but not indicating the likely outcomes of the visit and whether or not accreditation would be granted since the final decision will be made by the Accreditation Committee.
The college will be asked to provide a suggested itinerary for the visit and meetings together with full timetables for all classes taking place during the inspection. The Reporting Inspector will consider these when allocating duties to members of the inspection team. The precise details of the visit, however, may be changed during the initial meeting with the Principal.
Finally, it is suggested that in preparation for the Stage 3 visit the college may find it useful to undertake a “self critical review or audit” of its total operation (see for example, The Ofsted Handbook for Inspecting Colleges and the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2003 a Self Audit Checklist for Schools.)
For more information regarding Appeals, please see Section 4 of the Accreditation Handbook