Government adds Birmingham college to register of apprenticeship providers

Government adds Birmingham college to register of apprenticeship providers

After significant political pressure the Department for Education has added one of the Birmingham colleges onto the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP).

At least one provider had already gone bust when the register was first published, so FE Week yesterday asked the Department for Education why there had been no revision to the list of providers with permission to start apprentices next month.

Today the register was quietly revised, something only clear from the file name which was previously roatp-2017-03-18 and is now roatp-2017-04-13, although the provider that went bust was still included.

However, three new ‘main’ providers had been added, including South & City College Birmingham. The other two are private training providers: Norfolk Training Services Limited and The IT Skills Management Company Limited.

It is understood the change of heart follows a new DfE process to revisit applications in exceptional circumstances. In this case, we understand the rethink came about because of pre-existing Treasury Transaction Unit funding arrangements, which were agreed on the basis that apprenticeship delivery would be needed for a viable future.

In the case of Norfolk Training Services Limited, a source has told FE Week that the decision to overturn the rejection related to the way the RoATP Ofsted grade rules were being interpreted for an inspection which has yet to be published.

FE Week was first to report that none of the eligible major colleges in Birmingham (Birmingham Metropolitan College, Bournville College, South and City College and Solihull College) had made it onto RoATP when it was first published in March.

At the time David Hughes, AoC’s chief executive, said he was “concerned about the exclusion of some high-quality colleges from the register”.

And a spokesperson for South and City College said “we were very shocked to discover that our application had been unsuccessful, given our grade two Ofsted report and excellent track record.”

Several local Labour MPs had also expressed outrage, along with the shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden and the Labour mayoral candidate for the West Midlands Sion Simon, also reported in FE Week. 

Gisela Stuart MP and Jack Dromey MP raised questions in parliament with Ms Stuart, the MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, saying their absence from the register was “destroying technical education for 16-year-olds in the West Midlands”.

And Mr Dromey, the MP for Birmingham Erdington, asked the skills minister Robert Halfon to meet with the 10 MPs representing Britain’s second city to discuss the issue. Mr Dromey told FE Week that the decision to exclude the colleges “on the basis of the answer to one question is inexplicable”.

“The process is fundamentally flawed and it is essential that the SFA thinks again,” he said. Roger Godsiff, the MP for Birmingham Hall Green, said the process for applying to the register “smacked of a box-ticking exercise”.

He told FE Week that the Birmingham colleges had been “given to understand that the SFA would engage with them if their application was deficient in some form” but “all of them say that the SFA didn’t”.

Meanwhile, Richard Burden, the MP for Birmingham Northfield, said the omission was “shocking and out of order” – but added that it “can be nothing other than a mistake”.

Sion Simon, the Labour candidate for mayor of the West Midlands, has launched a campaign to overturn the decision, after just three of the county’s 16 colleges made it onto the register. “This decision will all but end technical education for young people in the West Midlands as we know it,” he said.

Although the RoATP application process was immediately reopened following its first publication, it is not believed these new additions are a result of a second attempt at applying.

At the time of publication neither the college nor the DfE had been approached for comment.

So see the next edition of FE Week for further information and reaction.