Ofsted: New apprenticeship provider monitoring visits a 'concern'

The results of the early monitoring visits to new apprenticeship providers are “concerning”, Ofsted’s deputy director for FE has said, after a quarter were given ‘insufficient progress’ verdicts.

Paul Joyce (pictured) hit out at the newcomers in his speech at the AELP conference today, asserting that apprentices “deserve better than that”.

“Our monitoring visits to new directly funded providers are designed to give an early assessment of the quality of provision,” he told delegates.

“I have to say that the outcomes to date are concerning. Around a quarter of the judgements inspectors have awarded have been ‘insufficient progress’ – meaning that providers are making slow progress and the demonstrable impact on learners has been negligible.

“Apprentices deserve better than that.

“This is a concern to me and Ofsted continues to work closely with the Department for Education and the Education and Skills Funding Agency to discuss and agree arrangements for the quality monitoring of these new directly funded providers.”

Numerous new providers have failed to come up to scratch over the last few months – including Mears Learning, Key6 Group, Mooreskills, and Apprentice Team.

Perhaps the most damning report was for Key6, whose training Ofsted described as “not fit for purpose”.

The ESFA banned it from delivery, but this only lasted for two months.

Mr Joyce pointed out that the monitoring visits show a “really mixed picture in relation to quality”.

“It has been pleasing to see some new providers making significant progress and apprentices receiving high-quality training that develops substantial new knowledge, skills and behaviours that are beneficial to them and their employers,” he said.

“In the best examples, apprentices and employers are extremely complimentary about the high-quality training, excellent resources and the support and guidance provided by experienced training provider staff.”

However, it is “less pleasing to see existing employees with almost all the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for the apprenticeship being recruited as apprentices and a train-to-gain, assessment-only programme delivered”.

“Or where the quality of training provided is simply not good enough, where training is not well planned or coordinated and where apprentices and employers feel let down,” he continued.

“Wherever inspectors come across this substandard provision, they will have no hesitation in reporting insufficient progress.”

Speaking to FE Week after his speech, Mr Joyce said he is expecting a policy announcement “imminently” in relation to intervention at these failing providers.

“We continue to talk with the DfE and ESFA about how best to monitor the new apprenticeship providers,” he said.

“That is in terms of our resources and conversations in terms of their intervention policy as a result of our judgements.

“Those negotiations are continuing, progressing well, and I am expecting the DfE to make a policy announcement imminently in relation to their intervention policy, and I do hope to hear very soon about the additional resources we are likely to get to carry out more monitoring visits.”

FE Week revealed last month that the watchdog will soon be given as much as £7 million to visit every new apprenticeship provider.

Critically, it will also have the final say over quality, after the skills minister Anne Milton admitted in May to the education select committee that it wasn’t clear who was accountable for quality at these new providers.