Two further education providers in Oxfordshire are rated as 'outstanding', new figures show.

It comes as the proportion of the highest-rated further education trainers, colleges, and apprenticeships across England has fallen sharply since before the coronavirus pandemic.

Further education covers any study after compulsory secondary education that's not part of university-based higher education.

It includes diplomas, industry-specific technical qualifications, apprenticeships and other courses.

Ofsted figures show two of the 18 further education providers in Oxfordshire with a rating, the Oxford School of Drama and Assist Knowledge Development, were deemed to be 'outstanding' in their most recent inspection date as of February 29.

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers, a membership body which represents further education providers, blamed "hugely disruptive" lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Association of Colleges said the fall in outstanding grades was "natural" due to Ofsted moving from conducting inspections every 10 years to every three in 2022.

Nationally, there were 140 outstanding further education providers as of February 29 this year.

This is just 9 per cent of the 1,520 providers with an assessment, a fall of almost a third from 13 per cent as of February 29 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic.

Ofsted said this was due to a rise in the total number of providers inspected, and added the proportion of providers rated as 'outstanding' or 'good' has remained consistent.

Julian Gravatt, deputy chief executive at the AoC, said he is "proud" of the 185 colleges rated as good or outstanding, which represents 89 per cent of the 207 colleges.

Ben Rowland, chief executive at the AELP, said: "To keep as many learners motivated with their learning programmes as they did while in lockdown was an extraordinary achievement.

"Coupled with a change in how inspections are done, introduced just before Covid, it is not surprising the number of institutions judged 'outstanding' fell a little, and it is a tribute to the sector that the number deemed inadequate decreased."

The proportion of inadequate providers across the country fell from 4 per cent as of February 2020 to 2 per cent this year, with 35 in total.

But none of these were in Oxfordshire.