Colleges delivering hundreds of apprenticeships ‘surprised’ to be left off new provider register

Colleges delivering hundreds of apprenticeships 'surprised' to be left off new provider register

A number of major apprenticeship delivering colleges are “stunned”, “disappointed” and “frustrated” at not being on the new Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers.

As reported by FE Week, the Skills Funding Agency yesterday published the full list of providers that will be eligible to deliver apprenticeships from May.

Among the colleges with significant current apprenticeship allocations that did not make it onto the list are Bournemouth and Poole College, Hartlepool College, Birmingham Metropolitan College and Northbrook College.

The news has prompted concern from David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, who has vowed to raise the issue with the SFA and Department for Education as a “matter of urgency”.

Diane Grannell, Bournemouth and Poole College principal, said: “We are extremely disappointed and frustrated that we were not one of the initial organisations included on the register and we are doing everything we can to urgently rectify this situation.”

The college, which retained its grade two rating following a short inspection in February 2016, has a 2016/17 apprenticeships allocation of £5.6m, with the report stressing: “Students and apprentices continue to experience good education and training.”

Following the bad news on RoATP, Ms Grannell added: “Our failure was only due to a lack of clarity in one answer of our 2,000 word submission and at no point did the SFA ask the college to clarify any information.”

A spokesperson for Hartlepool College, which has a current apprenticeship allocation of almost £2.9 million, was “genuinely stunned” not to be on the register.

She said the college, which received a grade two overall and for its apprenticeship provision at its most recent inspection in 2014 that praised the high achievement rates for its apprentices, said it had missed out on a place on the register “due to an unexpected and frankly inexplicable ‘fail’ on a rather straightforward quality assurance question (QA10)”.

She continued: “We have provided a robust response to the question as part of our online submission that we would argue covers all the required criteria – hence we are attempting to engage with the RoATP team to try to resolve.

“We hasten to add that this is not an appeal or an attempt to add new information; we genuinely believe that there could be an administrative error”.

Birmingham Metropolitan College has an allocation of more than £4.6 million for apprenticeships in 2016/17, according to the latest Skills Funding Agency figures.

But the college does not appear on the new register published yesterday.

Andrew Cleaves, BMet principal, told FE Week: “Following the recent publication of the register, we are very surprised and disappointed by the outcome,” he said.

He said that the college had “put forward a solid proposal to the SFA” and had “grown significantly this past year”.

The college’s most recently published Ofsted report in 2015 gave BMet a grade three overall, with a grade three for apprenticeship provision.

But Mr Cleaves said the college was reinspected in February and rated ‘good’ for apprenticeships, with the report due to be published “imminently”.

“We are now working with the SFA to see how we can address things and are confident that this will reach a positive conclusion over the coming weeks, for BMet and our many satisfied employers and apprentices,” he said.

FE Week has also learned of another college that is “seeking clarification” from the SFA after not making it onto the RoATP. 

A spokesperson for Northbrook College, which has a current apprenticeship allocation of just over £3 million, said that the college had “expected to be included” on the list.

As reported by FE Week, the new RoATP was published yesterday by the SFA.

A total of 1,708 providers are on the list, with 1,303 of those being listed as ‘main providers’, who will be the only providers able to deliver training directly to levy-paying employers from May.

FE Week is also investigating a number of other providers with significant apprenticeship contracts that have not made it onto the new register. More to follow.