Free article: Employability skills and Ofsted

Published: Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Under the new inspection framework, schools will be inspected on pupils' economic well-being – and that includes attendance rates. 


  • 'Employability skills' can be applied to all learners, from those entering Reception to those leaving 16-19 study programmes.
  • The focus in not only on work-based skills, but also upon personal qualities, teamwork and enterprise skills.
  • The core document to instruct inspectors in evaluating employability is the Common Inspection Framework but other inspection handbooks are used to interpret evidence for different age groups.

In an earlier version of the Ofsted Handbook, school inspectors were required to make a graded judgement on:

'The extent to which pupils develop workplace and other skills that will contribute to their future economic well-being'.

This proved to be a strength in most settings; however the judgement also took into account attendance and that downgraded many schools. The requirement to inspect economic well-being was dropped, with the focus on the four key areas of inspection, but the importance of this aspect has been reaffirmed in the new framework introduced in September 2015.

Preparing students for the next stage

Being 'employable' is far more than simply mastering a set of skills. We know from many employers that it is more about personal qualities such as honesty, trustworthiness and a willingness to work hard. For these reasons, inspectors will have a much wider brief and will be looking for evidence of the following:

  • knowledge and understanding of the world of work
  • personal qualities
  • realistic aspirations and understanding of how to achieve aims
  • application of core skills
  • personal and social skills
  • team and workplace skills
  • enterprise skills
  • the effectiveness of provision and outcomes for learners.

The essential publications detailed below show that, while the Common Inspection Framework refers specifically to employability skills, the focus is actually much wider and varies greatly according to the age of the learner.

The emphasis is on preparing learners for the next stage, which, at the earliest age, may be for Reception. Even the oldest students may not be entering the world of work, but moving on to the next stage of training or higher education. For older learners, inspectors will be looking for evidence of outcomes through data such as NEET figures and progression routes. They will expect schools and other providers to have this data and to use it to improve their provision.

Schools and other providers can use Checklist – Evaluating employability skills: Checklist of questions to evaluate their current provision for equipping pupils for the next stage and the world of work.

Essential publications

Common Inspection Framework (CIF)

The CIF is the core document for all inspections and, for this aspect, it instructs inspectors to evaluate how far children and learners of all ages have:

'where relevant, employability skills so that they are well prepared for the next stage of their education, employment, self-employment or training'.

This is then interpreted for different age groups in the several inspection handbooks.

Early Years Handbook

Children are being prepared for adult life and the world of work from the earliest age but there are few direct references in the grade descriptors. Instead, the focus is on preparation for the next stage of learning.


  • The strong skills of all key persons ensure that all children are emotionally well prepared for the next stages in their learning. Practitioners skilfully support children's transitions both within the setting and to other settings and prepare them for the move to school.


  • Key persons ensure children are emotionally well prepared for the next stages in their learning.


  • Practitioners do not support children's social and emotional well-being and prepare them for transitions within the setting and/or to other settings and school.

School Handbook


  • In secondary schools, high quality, impartial careers guidance helps pupils to make informed choices about which courses suit their academic needs and aspirations. They are prepared for the next stage of their education, employment, self-employment or training.
  • Pupils understand how their education equips them with the behaviours and attitudes necessary for success in their next stage of education, training or employment and for their adult life.


  • In secondary schools, pupils use impartial careers guidance to make choices about the next stage of their education, employment, self-employment or training.


  • No direct reference.

Grade descriptors for 16-19 study programmes


  • Learners are confident and conduct themselves well. They are punctual. They have excellent personal, social and employability skills and undertake high quality non-qualification activities and work experience that matches their needs. Attendance rates are high (School Handbook).
  • High quality careers guidance helps learners to make informed choices about which courses suit their needs and aspirations. They are prepared for the next stage of their education, employment, self-employment or training (FE Handbook).
  • Learners understand how their education and training equip them with the behaviours and attitudes necessary for success in the future as reflected by the excellent employability skills they acquire and the achievement of relevant additional qualifications (FE Handbook).


  • Learners develop personal, social and employability skills, including through high quality non-qualification activities and work experience relevant to their needs. They are punctual and attendance is high (School Handbook).
  • Learners value their education. Few are absent and no groups of learners are disadvantaged by low attendance. Learners develop employability skills that prepare them for the world of work, including the achievement of relevant qualifications and deadlines (FE Handbook).


  • Learners or groups of learners are ill-prepared for their next steps in terms of attainment, personal skills or behaviours (School Handbook).
  • Too many learners or groups of learners are unsuccessful in securing relevant sustained education, employment or training (School Handbook).
  • A significant minority of learners show a lack of respect and self-discipline. Learners ignore or rebut requests to moderate their conduct and are not adequately prepared for progression or the world of work (FE Handbook).

Leaders of sixth forms will find it useful to refer to the Further Education and Skills Inspection Handbook for all aspects of in-spection, including employability skills.


Use the following items in the Toolkit to help you put the ideas in this article into practice:

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