Colleges’ move after bully claims

Allegations of bullying and physical abuse have prompted three subcontractor colleges to take over apprenticeships from a Midland-based prime contractor.

A damning Ofsted report found “serious allegations of physical and verbal bullying and harassment” and deemed the National Farrier Training Agency (NFTA) to be inadequate, as reported by FE Week in June.

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) banned the NFTA, which teaches shoeing and hoof trimming of horses and similar animals, from taking on any new learners until a long-term strategy could be agreed.
The NFTA, based in Peterborough, was the prime contractor with the SFA, organising vocational training for apprentices with approved training farriers (ATFs) across the country.

The NFTA also subcontracted classroom learning to Herefordshire & Ludlow College, Myerscough College and Warwickshire College.

The vast majority of allegations in Ofsted’s report on the NFTA were made about learners’ treatment during training with the ATFs, not in the colleges.

And the three colleges are due to take over full responsibility for farriery apprentices later this year, drawing funding directly from the SFA.

It is hoped the move will allow colleges to screen ATFs and ensure apprentices’ well-being.

A spokesperson for the SFA said it was working closely with the NFTA’s parent body, the Farriers Registration Council (FRC).

She said: “We expect all existing learners to transfer to the colleges currently involved in the delivery of the farriery apprenticeship.

“Our intention is to open up the market to enable a wider range of providers to deliver this provision, should they wish to.”

Herefordshire & Ludlow College principal Ian Peake spoke to FE Week on behalf of the three colleges and said the move would be good for farriery.

“We are very pleased to be taking the work on because we’re comfortable will be able to deliver a very good quality programme and there won’t be the complication of working with more than one body which has really proved to be unhelpful,” he said.

The FRC will still accredit training and monitor colleges’ delivery, for which colleges will pay a levy, and will have the power to strike off a college that fails to deliver good quality apprentice training.

An NFTA spokesperson said: “Much must now be done to bring the new training system into action so that apprentices are provided with a safe learning environment and an effective and enjoyable training system.

“The timescale has yet to be finalised, but the move of existing training is expected to take place during autumn 2013 with the first intake of new apprentices starting in early 2014.

“The NFTA will continue to exist to run existing apprenticeships until the handover to colleges takes place, which will be sooner rather than later.”

The SFA spokesperson added: “We are satisfied with the progress and plans to date, and we are committed to ensuring that all learners receive their full learning and training, with minimal disruption.”