A national training provider has plummeted from an Ofsted outstanding rating to inadequate, while employer provider Next has also been told its apprenticeships aren’t up to scratch in inspection reports published today.
The education watchdog also found that the Marine Society College of the Sea had made “reasonable progress” since getting a grade four in November.
Training provider CADCentre, headquartered in Swansea, was handed a grade four in all headline areas following the inspection in early July — a stark contrast to the overall grade one it achieved in its last inspection in 2007.
On Ofsted’s most recent visit, inspectors said: “Procedures for the safe recruitment of new staff are weak, too few learners on classroom-based and workplace learning courses successfully complete their programme.”
They also said too few of the providers apprentices, the majority of which are 19 plus, completed their courses in the planned time.
They also said learners, especially the more able, were not encouraged to develop their skills above the bare minimum.
“The curriculum does not meet the needs of learners and employers well enough,” they said, adding this had inhibited learners’ ability to find jobs locally.
The 1,632-learner provider had a £2.2m contract with the Skills Funding Agency to deliver in administration, business management, ICT and classroom assistants apprenticeships, classroom-based employability programmes and other workplace ICT courses.
No-one from CADCentre was available to comment.
Clothing retailer Next was also slapped with an inadequate grading in the first inspection of its delivery of 786 level two retail and call centre apprenticeships.
Following the inspection in early July, inspectors said the safeguarding at the high street chain, which has a £1.5m SFA contract, was inadequate — a grade they also awarded to Next in all headline areas.
They added: “Too many apprentices withdraw from their learning — the support provided for them is inadequate and does not ensure that they remain on their apprenticeship to complete their qualification.”
The report also said learners did not “fully understand” what would be demanded of them on the apprenticeship, due to insufficient advice and guidance.
It added that apprentices did not receive enough assessment of or support with their maths and English skills, and issued a damning verdict on the company’s training leaders and managers, saying they “have failed to realise their vision of enabling all apprentices to excel in their studies and at work”.
However, the report identified the “considerable investment in developing the training team” by the company’s board and directors as a strength.
A Next spokesperson said: “We are very disappointed with our first Ofsted inspection.
“We completely accept the report’s findings and recommendations. We have commenced a vigorous programme of improvements and aim to make significant progress within the next six months.”
An SFA spokesperson said in the case of both providers the agency was “considering the published Ofsted report in line with our Intervention process” which could lead to CADCentre losing its contract.
Ofsted was more positive in the report of the Marine Society’s College of the Sea’s third monitoring visit, which also took place at the beginning of last month.
In the report published last Friday, inspectors said the college, which offers distance learning for sailors, had made “reasonable progress” in increasing the number of learners completing their GCSE and A-level programmes, improving use of data to monitor learner progress, ensuring their courses were suitable for the maritime industry and improving safeguarding.
The college’s director of lifelong learning, Mark Windsor said: “We’re pleased that Ofsted recognise the hard work that we are doing to improve, but we recognise that there’s more to do and we’re committed to achieving that.”
The 2014 Ofsted inspection, which prompted a visit from FE Commissioner David Collings, criticised its subcontractor, the National Extension College (NEC).
In the monitoring visit report, inspectors noted: “Managers are now monitoring the performance of the current subcontractor and of their learners.
“The current sub-contractor is providing better learning programmes for new learners that include more frequent contact from the tutor — previously tutors relied on learners contacting them to ask for support.”
However, tenders for a new subcontractor to offer provision from September 2016 have been invited.
The SFA funded provision, worth £160,000, makes up only a small part of the college’s provision — accounting for 81 learners at the time of the inspection.
NEC chief executive Ros Morpeth said: “We are pleased that Ofsted have recognised in their recent re-inspection report that improvements have been made and that the learners are benefiting from the new arrangements.”
She said although NEC would not bid on the new contract, it would continue to support existing students.
The Skills Funding Agency declined to comment on the monitoring visit report.