Government secretly grading all colleges and training providers

Government secretly grading all colleges and training providers

UPDATE: It has been brought to our attention that there were inaccuracies in the full PAT list previously published, which FE Week downloaded from the DFE website. Whilst we investigate we have removed the link to this data. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. The data was sent to the DfE in advance of publishing for their reference. 

More than half of providers have been secretly rated by the Education and Skills Funding Agency as posing a potential risk, FE Week can exclusively reveal.

They are surreptitiously marked using a four-grade system in the ESFA’s ‘profile and assessment’ software tool, which FE Week has discovered listed 563 (55 per cent) of 1,025 private training providers, colleges and councils with agency contracts as either being watched closely by officials or receiving formal intervention, as of January 2017.

The Department for Education has refused to comment on the scheme, but sector leaders who were shown the list of providers and grades have lambasted the ESFA’s secrecy and are now calling for urgent transparency.

The four categories included in the PAT are ‘formal intervention’ (red), the most severe, ‘active engagement’ (amber), ‘close watching brief’ (light orange), and ‘standard monitoring’ (green).

If a provider is placed in the first three categories, it means the government is concerned about their performance and places them under scrutiny. 

FE Week understands that a total of 73 providers were receiving formal interventions in January, with 299 in active engagement with the DfE, and 191 on the close-watching brief.

Just 462 were in the clear in category 4.

Mark Dawe, the chief executive of AELP, slammed the ESFA’s secret grading system.

“As a public body there should not be any secretive processes and this should all be transparent to all providers that they fund,” he told FE Week. “This is clearly something the AELP will need to raise with the ESFA on behalf of our members.”

David Hughes, the boss of the AoC, said it was “appropriate” for the ESFA to be assessing the financial and overall health of the providers it funds.

However, he added that it would be “good for the agency to be more transparent about what the triggers are using to move providers into and out of each category”.

He also wants further information to help “understand more how the agency uses these categories for funding decisions”.

Providers rated in category 1 of the PAT are treated like those with a notice of concern or serious breach, and face having their funding contracts terminated if they do not meet the government’s conditions for improvement.

The Department for Education would not provide FE Week with any further details about these categories, or the way they are determined and used.

“We do not comment on leaked documents,” said a spokesperson.

UPDATE: It has been brought to our attention that there were inaccuracies in the full PAT list previously published, which FE Week downloaded from the DFE website. Whilst we investigate we have removed the link to this data. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. The data was sent to the DfE in advance of publishing for their reference.