OFSTED has announced it intends to return to routine inspections next January, after it conducted its first “interim visit” at a Bradford education setting since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The education watchdog had to halt its usual inspections back in March as the Covid-19 virus took hold across the country.

There were some final visits to Bradford schools at the end of February and into the start of March.

These reports were published over the past few months, but Ofsted conducted its first actual inspection at a school or college in the city since the pandemic hit at the end of September.

The education watchdog visited Bradford College, in Great Horton Road, on Wednesday, September 30 and Thursday, October 1.

In an introduction to the report, Ofsted explained its inspections would be very different to how they usually run, until at least 2021.

The report stated: "As part of our phased return to routine inspections, we are carrying out ‘interim visits’ to further education and skills providers.

"Interim visits are to help learners, parents, employers and government understand how providers are meeting the needs of learners and apprentices in this period, including learners with high needs and those with special educational needs and disabilities.

"We intend to return to routine inspection in January 2021 but will keep the exact timing under review."

Gone are the five key categories for assessment, for now, as is an overall rating for the setting.

This has been replaced by broad themes relating to how a setting has responded to the crisis.

The finding's of these new "interim visits" are based on discussions with leaders, managers, staff and learners.

Bradford College was praised for its approach to facilitating online learning and how quickly this was done.

The report states: "Leaders have adapted the way in which the curriculum is delivered by setting requirements for all departments to deliver at least a third of their programme online."

The move to remote learning has been helped by diverting finances to invest in computer equipment, infrastructure and software.

Governors also encouraged leaders to continue to develop their relationships with stakeholders and those who may potentially take on learners after college, during the pandemic.

Leaders feel they have strengthened these partnerships and employers have been impressed with the speed at which the college and subcontractor staff switched learning online.

The report states: "For example, dentistry apprentices who were placed on furlough by their employers continued their learning online and were given extra time to repeat and reinforce their learning."

Dawn Leak, Vice Principal at Bradford College, said: “We want to thank everybody at Bradford College for continuing to support our students and each other in very challenging circumstances.

"We are delighted that inspectors have recognised the hard work that has been undertaken and our ongoing commitment to our students and staff.

“Our response to the Covid pandemic was clear to the inspectors, and they have seen the positive impact of this hard work on our learners.

“We will continue to face challenges in the future but the college will continue to work with employers and partners to make sure we continue to provide the widest of learning opportunities for the community.

"We will continue to deliver our mission of transforming lives whatever the challenge in front of us."