First inadequate Ofsted rating for loans-only provider

First inadequate Ofsted rating for loans-only provider

The first inadequate-overall Ofsted rating has been handed out to a loans-only provider, which complained it had been unaware it was subject to inspection, causing its Skills Funding Agency contract to be pulled.

The Beauty Academy was handed the lowest possible rating overall and in three headline fields in a report published today (March 30), based on an inspection carried out at the end of February.

The verdict has led to the Skills Funding Agency pulling the Cambridge-based provider’s funding – which totalled almost £1.6 million for advanced learner loans in 2016/17.

But a spokesperson for the provider told FE Week it will “see through” all 262 learners affected until the end of their studies.

The report noted that The Beauty Academy’s directors had “only very recently become aware of some of the significant improvements that are needed to improve the quality of the provision”.

But it said: “They have insufficient understanding of the requirements of delivering government-funded learning provision.”

Terry Hadley, one of the provider’s two directors, accepted the findings of the report.

But he hit out at both the SFA and Ofsted, saying he had not been told of a key rule change which meant he would be subject to inspection.

He said this rule had been introduced in September “because there was a lot of abuse of the advanced learner loans facility” and meant that loans-only providers came under Ofsted’s remit “when for three years they hadn’t been”.

A summary of changes to the FE and skills handbook, published by Ofsted in August, included “clarification that the scope of Ofsted inspection includes loans-only funded providers”.

Mr Hadley said he was “very, very unhappy” that neither the SFA nor Ofsted had told him of the rule change, and that he only found out in January when he was invited to an Ofsted webinar for new providers.

“We know there’s a big difference between what Ofsted expects and what the awarding bodies expect,” he said.

“So we started to bridge that gap but within four weeks we get an inspection,” he said.

Inspectors for the education watchdog found that leaders at The Beauty Academy were “too slow to implement effective quality improvement arrangements”.

As a result outcomes for learners were “inadequate”.

“Too few learners” made “sufficient progress”, “achieve their qualifications” or “progress into further training or employment”, the report noted.

“Too many” learners on flexible ‘long’ courses – which made up the “large majority” of the provider’s learners – “drop out of learning”, inspectors found.

In 2015/16 just “a quarter of learners achieved their qualifications and only one tenth did so in the expected timescales”, the report said.

But it did note that “learners on recently introduced ‘short’ courses make good progress and most achieve their qualification”.

Safeguarding at the provider was “ineffective and weak”, and “leaders have not fulfilled their obligations under the ‘Prevent’ duty”.

Mr Hadley confirmed that the SFA had pulled The Beauty Academy’s contract, and the provider had been taken off the Register of Training Organisations.

Loan funding accounted for about 50 per cent of their learners, Mr Hadley said, and the provider would be able to continue without it.

“The existing learners will finish their studies in July, and we’ll see all of them through,” he said.

The SFA was unable to comment ahead of publication, but an Ofsted spokesperson told FE Week: “In September 2016 we published our Further Education and Skills handbook, which made clear that loans-only funded providers would be subject to Ofsted inspection. 

“As part of our stakeholder engagement programme, in January this year we wrote to the Beauty Academy’s CEO, inviting him to an official webinar to clarify what to expect from an Ofsted inspection.”