National provider enters redundancy consultation with staff

Staff at the nation’s largest FE provider are on tenterhooks, as they wait to find out whether they will still have a job at the end of a 30 day consultancy period enforced this week.

Learndirect informed employees that they were being placed in the month-long consultancy period via a “script” delivered in a conference call on Monday, FE Week has learned.

A concerned staff member contacted FE Week on May 23 to say they and their colleagues were “expecting to lose our jobs in the next month or two”.

The provider subsequently confirmed the imminent job losses to us, stating that “some colleagues will leave Learndirect”.

Explaining the need for these cuts, a spokesperson said: “As a business we have offered GCSEs as part of our early years offer.   

“There has been a significant lobby to have mandatory GCSE requirements removed from the level three apprenticeship framework, with employers favouring the acceptance of functional skills qualifications. 

“As a result we have decided to remove the GCSE offer from the Learndirect portfolio, whilst looking at our customers’ ongoing requirements for functional skills.”

She added: “Sadly this may mean some colleagues will leave Learndirect. 

“Given we are in a consultation process it would not be appropriate for us to comment further.”

The staff member who contacted FE Week said a range of roles could be affected, including GCSE tutors, regional functional skills tutors, maths and English specialists and line managers, but Learndirect declined to comment further on these details.

The employee added: ““The way things are going not many of us are happy at Learndirect anyway.”

Concerns about the provider – which is a giant in the sector, with almost 200,000 learners logged in its latest available Ofsted report from 2013 – were raised just last month.

FE Week learned that although Learndirect had actually been inspected again by the education watchdog at the end of March this year, details of its new report would not be published for a further six weeks – with the “silence period” before the election given as the reason for the delay.

A government spokesperson said: “Ofsted, like other government departments, is subject to certain limitations on activity during election silence periods under guidance set out by the Cabinet Office.

“In line with the guidance, we will not publish the inspection report at this time because of the provider’s significance as a national provider of FE training.”

He confirmed Ofsted had “inspected this learning provider in late March 2017” and planned “to publish the inspection report after the general election on June 8”.

Meanwhile a Learndirect spokesperson told FE Week at the time: “We have recently been inspected and due to the scope of Learndirect’s provision we are still providing Ofsted with data.

“While this process continues, we have received notification from Ofsted that our report will not be published for at least the next six weeks.”

Learndirect Was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted in April 2013. The provider employed 1,685 operations employees and 444 administration employees in 2015, according to its most recently published financial statements from July of that year, while wages and salaries for 2015 came to £50,844,000.