Revealed: Ofsted’s second report into ‘new’ apprenticeship providers

Revealed: Ofsted’s second report into ‘new’ apprenticeship providers

The second of a new wave of Ofsted early-monitoring visit reports keeping a close eye on newcomers to directly funded apprenticeship provision has returned with largely positive findings.

The report into London College of Apprenticeship Training rates it as making significant progress in one area and reasonable progress in two. This is far more positive than the first report published on March 15 into Key6 Group, which heavily criticised “not fit for purpose” provision.

Both are part of a series of visits to companies on the register of apprenticeship training providers, which are trying to sniff out “scandalous” attempts to waste public money by newcomers to the market for directly funded apprenticeship provision.

But where Key6Group is new to delivering apprenticeships, LCAT has a longer track record: it was set up in 2014, and was operating as a subcontractor until the introduction of the apprenticeship levy last May.

According to the most recent Education and Skills Funding Agency list of declared subcontractors, it held two subcontracts in 2016/17: one, with Hull College, worth £1.1 million, and a second, with the College of North West London, worth £171,600.

A spokesperson for Ofsted explained that the monitoring visits included “totally new providers, those who have previously been subcontractors, and those who have provided other forms of education and training in the past but ceased to be directly-funded”.

Graham Howe, LCAT’s executive director for business development, quality and human resources, said he was “very proud” that the watchdog had recognised “the significant progress we have made to deliver successful apprenticeship provision”.

In particular he said the provider had “worked hard to ensure our employers and apprentices understand the commitment to spend 20 per cent of their time off-the-job in training, and this is reflected in the report as a result of direct feedback from employers and apprentices”.

LCAT had “previously provided apprenticeship training under subcontracted arrangements, but this is the first time they have been a directly-funded provider,” she said.

It delivers training for around 360 apprentices on level two, three and five courses in team leading, customer service, business improvement and management, according to today’s report.

Inspectors found that leaders had made “significant progress” in ensuring it was meeting all the requirements of successful apprenticeship provision.

LCAT’s managers “spend time with employers prior to enrolling apprentices” which helps them to “understand the employers’ priorities for training and also the culture of the employer in order to adapt training materials appropriately”, the report said.

“Employers understand clearly the requirements of apprenticeship standards for on- and off-the-job training and most support their apprentices well to meet these requirements.”

The provider is making ‘reasonable progress’ in ensuring that apprentices benefit from high-quality training that leads to positive outcomes for apprentices, and putting in place effective safeguarding arrangements.

Most apprentices make “at least good progress and achieve milestones” set for them, thanks to “well-organised teaching, training and assessment”.

“Apprentices make good progress in acquiring important practical and vocational skills which are relevant to their qualification and job role; their skills coaches support them in doing this effectively.”

It noted occasional problems with apprentices’ “poor” attendance at training sessions, as they are “not given the time away from their job role to attend”.

But attendance is improving, after managers noticed the issue and took action, the report said.

The Key6 report slammed its apprenticeship provision, which included high-profile contracts with Liverpool Football Club and charity giant Mencap, as “not fit for purpose”.

Ofsted chief inspection Amanda Spielman referred to the damning report during her speech at FE Week’s Annual Apprenticeship Conference last week.

While admitting that the findings were “worrying”, she expressed hope that, following further monitoring visits, “positive results will significantly outnumber the disappointments”.