A local authority in the north-east has plummeted two grades to ‘inadequate’, in an Ofsted report which raised alarms about risks of radicalisation and severely poor subcontracted apprenticeship delivery.
Sunderland city council, which was rated ‘good’ in 2014 and trains just over 3,000 learners, received the damning verdict this morning.
Inspectors slammed its apprenticeships, which are mostly in health and social care and are supplied by nine different subcontractors.
“Contract management for the apprenticeship provision has not been robust enough to identify and arrest the deterioration in the quality of the provision since the last inspection,” the report said.
Managers are “overgenerous” in their evaluation of the quality of this provision.
They do not monitor the training that subcontractors provide to “ensure that apprentices receive their entitlement to off-the-job training time”.
As a result, “too many employers do not give apprentices enough time to complete their training and do not contribute to apprentices’ learning”.
Leaders have not assessed adequately the risks related to radicalisation and extremism
Ofsted said apprentices often have to complete their work during their days off, which delays their progress, and “too many find it too difficult” to complete their training.
Owing to this, council leaders have now decided to cease subcontracting this provision. Inspectors said this plan was “commendable”, but it was too early to see its impact.
Perhaps the most serious concern turned up by the inspection was that of safeguarding.
Leaders have “not assessed adequately the risks related to radicalisation and extremism”, and they have not ensured that staff are “well prepared” to discuss these risks with learners.
Consequently, the “large majority” of students “do not understand how to stay safe from these risks”.
Managers too often place the responsibility for developing a culture of safeguarding with subcontractors, “without fully recognising their own role in ensuring effective safeguarding policies and procedures”.
Leaders have also not developed any action plan to implement the Prevent duty.
Ofsted said that although the great majority of staff at the council have completed “some form of training”, it has “not given them the knowledge, skills and confidence to inform their learners about the risks of radicalisation and extremism”.
Managers are therefore “not always certain about what constitutes such a risk”.
Although no learners were found to be unsafe on inspection, managers “cannot assure themselves of this because they do not keep a central log recording incidents and concerns at their subcontractors”.
To improve, Ofsted said the council has to “urgently improve” safeguarding arrangements, particularly by carrying out a risk assessment in line with the requirements of the national guidance on the implementation of ‘Prevent’.
We’re naturally very disappointed about the findings of this report
They must also support tutors to become “more confident and skilled” in discussing the nature of radicalisation and extremism, so that learners “become more aware of the risks that they face and how to protect themselves from harm”.
The council must also ensure that all apprentices receive their entitlement to time for off-the-job training, and that elected members receive “timely reports, informed by accurate data, on the performance of the service”.
“We’re naturally very disappointed about the findings of this report,” said a Sunderland city council spokesperson.
“We have already put an improvement plan in place and are addressing the major issues raised around Prevent and British values.
“Inspectors acknowledged that the majority of learners complete their courses and achieve their qualifications and that the curriculum has been developed to serve both local employment and community needs well.
“Our focus continues to be on our learners and ensuring that they achieve success.”