College defiant despite damning Ofsted meaning apprentice register removal

College defiant despite damning Ofsted meaning apprentice register removal

A Merseyside college hit with an Ofsted grade four in apprenticeships is claiming it will not cut down on staff, despite government rules removing it from the new apprenticeships’ register.

St Helens College was given an overall ‘requires improvement’ judgement by the inspectorate in a report published today, but it was branded ‘inadequate’ for its delivery of apprenticeships.

The college successfully got onto the register of apprenticeship training providers this year, but will now it is thought be removed from it as a result of the grade four – in line with government rules.

It will therefore not be able to create any new starts on apprenticeship courses until the grade improves to a three or higher and successfully gets back onto the register.

The college has said it will continue to train its current crop of over 800 apprentices, but it expects to not make any job losses even though the courses will not be able to be run once this cohort has finished.

St Helens College Principal, Dr Jette Burford, said: “St Helens College will continue to be funded for the significant volume of our continuing apprentices, and we are working with our partners regarding supporting new business opportunities. As such there will be no impact on staffing.”

Education and Skills Funding Agency rules state that for any new apprenticeship starts after May 2017, providers must be on the RoATP, while existing apprentices are able to continue their courses under the previous rules.

Ms Burford said the majority of St Helens’ apprenticeship frameworks are two years long, delivered in subjects such as engineering, electrical engineering and electrical installation.

She added that at the time of the inspection, the college was performing at “national rates” for its apprenticeship provision and since then “the picture has continued to improve and the college is currently performing at above national rates”.

“This is set to improve further as we get to closer to the end of the academic year,” Ms Burford said.

However Ofsted’s inspection, which was carried out April 24 to 27, heavily criticised much of the college’s apprenticeships delivery.

Inspectors said senior leaders and managers do not have “sufficient oversight” of the progress that apprentices make on their programmes.

“Throughout the inspection, managers could not identify the progress that apprentices were making on their apprenticeship,” the report said. “This limits their ability to intervene when progress is too slow and achievements are too low, as they were at the time of the inspection.

“The majority of current apprentices are making slow progress on their qualifications; just under half of current apprentices have completed their qualification within their planned timescales.”

The report added that employers are not “involved sufficiently” in the planning and monitoring of apprentices’ knowledge and skills development.

The college delivers apprenticeships to 864 learners, with much of the training delivered by its own staff, with a small minority provided by Waterside Training Limited, which is part owned by the college, according to the Ofsted report.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Quality is at the heart of our reforms. We are clear that where an organisation has a grade four for overall effectiveness they cannot be on the register unless they have a three or above for apprenticeship provision. This is set out in the guidance. 

“Any providers which are downgraded to a four will be removed from the register in due course.”