Minister wrongly claims there are no grade four providers on new apprenticeships register

Minister wrongly claims there are no grade four providers on new apprenticeships register

The written response from apprenticeships minister Robert Halfon to an open letter, complaining about the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers’ selection process, wrongly claimed that there are no ‘inadequate’-Ofsted rated providers on it. 

Team leader and assessor at Acacia Training, Anne-Marie Morris, wrote the open letter expressing her sense of injustice – as published in FE Week on March 16 – after her company failed to get a place on the RoATP despite its Ofsted ‘good’ rating.

Mr Halfon’s letter in response, which has now been shared with us (click here to download), mistakenly said: “I can confirm that there are no Ofsted grade four organisations listed on the new register.”

Exclusive FE Week analysis has infact found there are five colleges and one council on the new register – Amersham & Wycombe College, Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College, Essex County Council, Huntingdonshire Regional College, Mid-Cheshire College, and North Shropshire College (see more details in table below).

He added: “Where an organisation has a grade four overall, or a grade four for apprenticeships, they will not be allowed to enter the register.

“If an organisation listed on the register attains a grade four in the future, then they will be removed from the register immediately.”

The minster stressed that all providers were given a clear set of criteria they had to meet, through the RoATP application process.

Key elements under consideration were, he said “due diligence; financial health; capacity/ capability, and quality”.

He warned that “if a provider does not meet these criteria they cannot be on the register.

“Your organisation would have been provided with feedback as to why it did not make it onto the Register, to help you with any future applications.”

He added the SFA plans to re-open the register “very quickly, around 20 March”, to give further opportunities for providers to submit an application, “including brand new providers as well as those that were not successful in the first round”.

He subsequently confirmed to MPs in the House of Commons this afternoon that providers who feel aggrieved because they did not make it onto the new RoATP will be able to reapply from tomorrow.

Mr Halfon concluded by stressing that the new register “will not affect provision for any apprenticeship starts before May 1”.

“Existing arrangements will continue to apply for these learners, and providers will still be able to deliver training through their existing contracts,” he added.

The open letter from Ms Morris, which included complaint over the lack of a clear appeals process, was to Sue Husband, director of the National Apprenticeship Service, Skills Funding Agency.

“As you can imagine, everyone in the company is devastated as all the hard work and commitment we make towards supporting learners to achieve their apprenticeships to such a high standard appears to not have been considered at all,” she said.

“I personally would really like to understand how this can happen and why we as a company cannot appeal the decision.

“I, along with my colleagues, will surely lose the jobs we have been so proud of and the future of such a professional, caring company is now in doubt. We are only a small training provider with 70 staff members but this will have a devastating impact on all of our lives.”

A Department for Education spokesperson told FE Week it was a simple mistake in the letter. “We are clear that where an organisation has a Grade 4 for overall effectiveness they will not be eligible to apply for the register unless they have a 3 or above for apprenticeship provision. This is set out in the guidance. There are no providers on the register who have a grade 4 for apprenticeship provision.

“We will be contacting the recipient of the letter in question to clarify the Department’s position.”