August 18, 2023

Training Providers: What does it take to be Ofsted Outstanding? 

Our biggest lessons and top tips from our Ofsted

Training Providers: What does it take to be Ofsted Outstanding? 

At Unviersal Skills Group, we’re immensely proud of our Ofsted Outstanding grade as a training provider. 

But we know many of our clients - and some of our fellow training providers - want to know what that actually means. 

In this blog, we explain our biggest lessons and top tips from our Ofsted inspections and assessments. So you can see exactly what went into achieving our Ofted Outstanding status! 

What does Ofsted Outstanding mean? 

Over several years, we underwent monitoring visits, inspections and a final assessment.

We were assessed in the following five areas


  • Quality of education: how we create and maintain an optimum learning environment, from the curriculum itself to the way it’s delivered and adapted for learners
  • Behaviour and attitudes: of all our internal staff, teachers and learners - both towards the course and the relationships they form with each other
  • Personal development: the soft skills and wider support given to our learners over their time with Universal Skills Group
  • Leadership and management: our ability to effectively manage our teams, create great working relationships between staff, learners and visitors to the centre, and ensure everyone feels safe and supported
  • Overall effectiveness 

To achieve Outstanding, a company must achieve a Grade 1 in most, if not all, areas - which is the top grade you can get. 

This takes a lot of work, consistency and communication throughout the business. That’s why we’re so proud to have achieved the grade of Outstanding!

7 insights, lessons and tips: 

As a training provider, it’s probably obvious that our training courses are rigorously examined. But there are 7 things alongside this that we think really mattered to our Ofsted score. 

1. Prepare everyone in the business 

The obvious one is for training staff themselves to be on ‘best behaviour’. But Ofsted assesses your business as a whole, so it makes sense to bring the entire team on the journey. 

Plus, after each of your monitoring visits, you’ll be making an action plan so everyone must be in the loop when it comes to next steps. 

We implemented quarterly improvement meetings so that everyone, regardless of department or role, could contribute and be conscious of the steps we wanted to take as an organisation. 

2. Talk to your team

As a training provider, we have both a permanent internal team and groups of learners who come to achieve their qualifications with us. Every person that is in your business over the course of your inspections and assessments is key to your Ofsted outcomes. 

Talking and listening to our team and learners at the training centre enabled us to keep everyone focussed on making us the best training provider we could possibly be. 

For years, everyone knew what we were working towards and this kept our morale and momentum up. Any issues were listened to intently and action plans drawn up when required. 

3. Prioritise safeguarding

How you look after people is imperative as a business as well as any Ofsted visit. It must be one of (if not the) top priority. Employees and learners who feel unsafe are not going to perform or learn at their best. 

Though all staff are trained in safeguarding, having clear lines for reporting concerns, and designated specialists within the team is instrumental to everyone’s mental health. It also ensures incidents are dealt with as quickly and simply as possible. 

We ensure all bases are covered to the best of our knowledge, that there is a protocol for any new scenarios and how the resulting actions further build our safeguarding policies and processes. 

As a training provider, our learners must be made aware of the risks of their job role and understand how to keep themselves safe - both mentally and physically. We make sure they know who to report concerns to, whether at the training centre or with an employer. 

ofsted outstanding - teamwork graphic

4. Be up front about weaknesses

Never try to ‘blag it’ if you know you have a weakness!

Ofsted inspectors are paid to look for your weaknesses so you can work on them. Being up front about what you’re already aware of and what you’re doing to improve helps the process along. It also allows honest and frank conversations, as well as lots of helpful feedback on how to go about fixing issues or simply making a process better. 

Open communication is key to improving to the standard that will earn you an Outstanding result. 

The important thing is to then put this in your reports with clear next steps. So, when you’re presenting your progress at each stage, really highlight the progress you’ve achieved so far and how far you think you still need to go. 

5. Demonstrate your strengths

As well as being up front about your weaknesses, don’t be afraid to highlight your strengths. You ultimately know your business and industry better than any Ofsted inspector ever will!

Take the time to explain the things that you put time and energy into making amazing for your team and your learners - however big or small. It all plays into building the picture of your incredible business. Importantly, demonstrating this with lots of evidence is key - which you won’t have a problem with if you’re doing all the good things you say you are!

6. Document everything 

With Ofsted, if it wasn’t written down then it didn’t happen. From safeguarding logs to problems discovered along the way, action plans and meeting minutes, document everything you possibly can. 

The worst thing that happens is you don’t need them. But if you need them and don’t have them, you will kick yourself. Especially if it’s the difference between Outstanding and not!

7. Perform your own ‘deep dives’

Following the reporting and evidence building topic, performing mini deep dives means you’re always up to date and prepared for your next monitoring inspection or assessment. 

A deep dive is where Ofsted inspectors will choose a certain aspect of your business to really delve into. Performing your own deep dives ensure every area of your business is prepared for Ofsted - not just your current focus. 

As a management team, we would schedule random ‘mini deep dives’. This highlighted any missing links so we could always fix them in time for the real thing. It also kept the team on track, knowing that we would check things periodically. 

Our Ofsted Report

To discover what our final assessment covered in more detail, read our full report here!

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