A Warwickshire-based provider has been ordered to stop running qualifications from a leading awarding organisation after it investigated allegations of malpractice.
NCFE has notified us of the outcome of its investigation. This is a matter for NCFE and Bright.”
Bright Assessing, which has boasted a pass rate of between 95 and 100 per cent, has been told it will “no longer have any involvement in the administration, delivery, assessment, moderation, invigilation and certification” of any NCFE (formerly the Northern Council for Further Education) programmes.
The findings of the NCFE investigation have not been made public, but a spokesperson for subcontractor Bright said it “vigorously disputes both the findings and the sanction” and that it would appeal. He declined to comment on how the decision would affect learners enrolled on NCFE courses.
A spokesperson for the awarding organisation said it could not reveal its findings until a ruling had been made on any appeal, which had to be in by the middle of this month. Meanwhile, Ofqual has already said NCFE’s action was “appropriate”.
The Skills Funding Agency said it would not be intervening, despite guidance last year saying it could stop prime contractors working with subcontractors if, among other things, there were “significant irregularities” in the awarding of qualifications.
A spokesperson said: “NCFE has notified us of the outcome of its investigation. This is a matter for NCFE and Bright.”
In November NCFE told FE Week it had launched an investigation into Bright, which provides qualifications for unemployed people who want to re-enter the workplace, following complaints from learners.
The awarding organisation spokesperson said: “Following a rigorous investigation into the quality standards of Bright, we have taken the decision to permanently withdraw centre approval.
“This means that Bright will no longer have any involvement in the administration, delivery, assessment, moderation, invigilation and certification of any NCFE programmes.
“Learners are at the heart of all we do and our stringent quality assurance processes are in place to ensure that the interests of our registered learners are protected.
“We take our duty of care to them extremely seriously and will do our utmost to support them, following the removal of Bright’s centre approval.”
But a spokesperson for Bright, originally called Bright Assessing but with the registered trading name of Bright International Training, hit back.
He said: “We vigorously dispute both the findings and the sanction imposed by NCFE, and have begun a process of appeal.
“We are also seeking the opinion and intervention of the regulator, Ofqual, and will be supplying information in support of our defence.
“We have subsequently been faced with critical challenges to our business, many of which could have been avoided had NCFE met its obligation to conduct appropriate external quality assurance processes and to provide adequate advice as per their contract with Bright and as stated within their own regulations.”
An Ofqual spokesperson said: “NCFE kept us informed throughout its investigations into allegations of malpractice at Bright. We consider the action it has taken to be appropriate to protect the integrity of its qualifications and the interests of those taking them.”
He added: “The investigation and resulting action by NCFE in this case show that malpractice will not be tolerated.”
It comes just a month after Bright chief executive Krissy Charles-Jones was pulled up by Ofsted over a misleading tweet and posting on her company website that wrongly appeared to imply the education watchdog had visited and given it a good grading.