Who will certificate Bright?

More awarding organisations distance themselves from troubled provider

Two further awarding organisations have cut ties with Bright Assessing less than three months after NCFE told the troubled provider to stop running its qualifications.

OCR said it would not be dealing with “any new candidates” for the Warwickshire-based provider and fellow awarding body Ascentis said it had “withdrawn recognition with immediate effect”.

The dual move is understood to have left Warwickshire-based Bright without an awarding organisation.

NCFE (formerly the Northern Council
for Further Education) announced in February it had stopped certificating Bright courses after its investigation into allegations of malpractice.

The findings have not been made public, but a Bright spokesperson said it “vigorously disputes both the findings and the sanction” and lodged an appeal, which is currently in a third review stage.

A spokesperson for OCR said: “OCR is not certificating any new candidates. We will do our best to help any candidates that are currently registered with OCR.”

However, Bright was still displaying OCR’s logo on its website and also advertising teaching, assessing, back-to-work, and business-related courses as FE Week went to press.

A spokesperson for Ascentis said: “Ascentis has withdrawn recognition with immediate effect. Students registered with us will have the opportunity to be placed elsewhere.”

Bright chief executive Krissy Charles-Jones declined to comment on whether any awarding organisations were still accrediting Bright’s courses. She said: “We have terminated our agreement with OCR for all future learners…. They have not informed us that we are under any investigation.

“We terminated our agreement with Ascentis more than six months ago and only put a few learners through them.”

She added: “We are currently working to ensure all learners will be supported by an awarding body and determining which it will be. We aim to do this by May 16. Our main priority is to the learners.”

Bright was advertising the Highfield Awarding Body for Compliance (HABC) on its website until earlier this year when, according to HABC, the provider was suspended from running any HABC qualifications.

But, Ms Charles-Jones said: “We were never approved or used by Highfields and I didn’t ever sign any application or agreement to do so. They approached us to work with us but we decided not to do so. We have never done any learning or registrations through them.”

Meanwhile, an NCFE spokesperson confirmed that Bright had lost the first two stages of the awarding organisation’s appeals process.

Bright has entered the third and final NCFE appeal stage, due to conclude by the end of the month, with an Ofqual investigation the next possible stage.

“We are only going through the NCFE appeal process so we can progress our complaint about them to Ofqual,” said Ms Charles Jones.

However, an Ofqual spokesperson told FE Week in February: “NCFE kept us informed throughout its investigations into allegations of malpractice at Bright. We consider the action it has taken to be appropriate to protect the integrity of its qualifications and the interests of those taking them.”

Bright was listed on the Skills Funding Agency’s website on March 27 this year as a subcontractor for Chesterfield College, through a contract worth £1,175,000, Avant Partnership, through a £136,194 contract, and the Derbyshire Network, through a £22,000 contract.

Chesterfield College and Avant Partnership confirmed their Bright contracts had concluded and the Derbyshire Network declined to comment.

Ofqual said it was “being kept up-to-date” on the NCFE appeals process and enquiries should be made to its helpline on 0300 3033346.

Learners should email vocational.qualifications@ocr.org.uk, qualityassurance@ascentis.co.uk, or service@ncfe.org.uk for advice.

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Learners paying price

With OCR and Ascentis both distancing themselves from troubled provider Bright Assessing, and NCFE having done the same earlier this year, it’s clear something’s not right.

To her credit, Bright chief executive Krissy Charles Jones answered our initial queries as to what was going on — but the reply was one that pointed blame elsewhere.

It was Bright that terminated contracts or turned them down, she says. It was also, she told us, the last response she would be giving.

It’s a situation that’s getting more and more desperate by the hour as FE Week continues to receive pleas from apparent learners seeking advice on their missing logbooks, portfolios, qualifications and payments.

To this end, FE Week has ensured learners have the contact details of the relevant awarding organisations, and Ofqual has also provided details of a helpline.

But it remains a terrible position for learners to find themselves in and one that will damage the good name of the sector.

Chris Henwood, FE Week editor