Colleges ‘tackling’ apprentice farrier bullying but ‘need’ modernisation

Ofsted monitoring inspections of three colleges that took over apprenticeship provision following accusations of bullying found safeguarding had improved, but warned the programme was still in need of modernisation.

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) demanded “immediate action to safeguard the welfare of all trainees” in June last year after physical and verbal bullying, harassment and exploitation were uncovered when inspectors visited the National Farrier Training Agency (NFTA), in Peterborough, and later downgraded it from good to inadequate.

Myerscough College, Warwickshire College and Herefordshire and Ludlow College took responsibility for farriery (horse shoeing) apprenticeship provision in November and all were judged to have made “reasonable” or “significant” progress in preventing employers abusing farriery apprentices.

The transition has been managed by Farriery Apprenticeship Steering Group (FASG), a body made up of the colleges, the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and industry organisations.

A spokesperson for Warwickshire College said it was “really pleased” with the progress it had made in “a very short timeframe”.

Although Ofsted said Myerscough College had not been “sufficiently robust” in dealing with poor-performing employers a college spokesperson said: “We are very pleased.

“The inspectors… noted the obvious commitment of the college’s teaching and support staff and the way Myerscough has worked closely with the professional bodies.”

Herefordshire and Ludlow principal Ian Peake said he was “delighted”.

He added: “We have worked very hard to rectify a range of issues and are now very well positioned to take a leading role in providing education and training to this important industry.”

All the reports said “insufficient progress” had been made in evaluating and modernising the programme.

However, Ofsted blamed this on other organisations in the FASG, saying the Worshipful Company of Farriers (WCF) had not “responded with sufficient energy”, leading the FASG to suspend modernisation activity until 2015.

WCF deputy registrar Ginny Ifould rejected Ofsted’s findings, saying the WCF had “not at any stage obstructed debate or action, and we are not aware of any decision to suspend activity until 2015.”

She added the WCF looked forward to working on the issue with the FASG.

An SFA spokesperson said: “The agency is aware of the recent Ofsted inspection reports into the three colleges which identified two areas of insufficient progress.

“We remain in close contact with the FASG as they continue to work on improving these areas.”