Agency strips provider of £2.5m contract

A Lancashire-based training provider has been stripped of its £2.5m Skills Funding Agency contract following a damning Ofsted grading and monitoring visit.

Training for Travel (TfT) an independent provider offering workplace training in the travel sector to more than 2,000 learners, was deemed inadequate across the board by the education watchdog, following an inspection in September.

The agency terminated the contract, worth £2,501,343, plus a £401,025 24+ loan facility, with three months’ notice on October 9, two days before the company was due to be bought by Mardell Associates Ltd which trades as Smart Training.

An agency spokesperson said: “The agency took the decision to terminate its contract with TfT following an inadequate Ofsted inspection and an inadequate financial health assessment.

“This decision has been taken in line with the government’s rigour and responsiveness policy, which states that independent training providers can expect to see their contracts terminated, subject to protecting the interests of learners.”

Around 50 staff members are now faced with the possibility of losing their jobs.

The Ofsted inspection found that not enough learners completed their frameworks or made the progress they were capable of, too many learners were on programmes which did not enable them to reach their full potential and the quality of teaching and learning was “not good enough”.

It said: “Leadership and management throughout the company are not effective in bringing about improvement — too many areas for improvement identified at the previous inspection remain.”

A monitoring visit just over a month after the initial inspection found that “as of yet nothing has changed in respect of the TfT provision and the experience of the learners”, but expressed hope for the proposed buyout by Smart Training.

It said: “The company acquiring TfT is a good provider and has the capacity and capability to make improvements to the TfT provision.

“The transition strategy for acquisition and beyond is realistic and well thought out.

“A comprehensive and well-structured post-inspection action plan is in place which addresses all of the action points arising from the inspection.”

However, the withdrawal of the agency contract means the sale will now not go ahead.

Bev Platt,TfT chief operating officer, said: “We’ve not been treated properly.

“Ofsted said in its [monitoring visit] report that it was quite pleased with the solution we’d found… and the senior management team, myself included, was not transferring to Mardell.”

She claimed the financial health issue raised by Ofsted was “null and void”, as it was based on intercompany debt owed to TfT’s own holding company, which would not be recalled, and would be incorporated into Smart Training’s accounts.

“There’s nobody else in the travel sector, we’re the only ones, so who are they going to transition the learners to?” she said.

The agency spokesperson said: “The priority for the agency is to ensure minimal disruption to apprentices, learners and employers and we will work to ensure all learners and apprentices are transferred to alternative providers.”