UPDATE: The government has confirmed that the Vocational College has now “ceased training”. “The DfE has appointed an administrator to support the transfer of learners and it is our priority to make sure that suitable high quality alternative provision can be found for all learners so they can continue with their learning with the minimum of disruption,” said a spokesperson.
A provider which trains hundreds of glass industry apprentices has been branded ‘inadequate’, in a damaging report that warns of a “significant number” being subjected to lengthy enforced breaks from learning.
The grade four across the board Ofsted report on the Vocational College Limited, based in Liverpool, was published this morning. Resulting prospects for the independent training provider and its apprentices are still to be confirmed.
Such ‘inadequate’ verdicts usually result in government funding being pulled from ITPs, which can force closure.
The Vocational College Limited’s status was listed as ‘active’ on Companies House at the time of publication. But no-one was answering calls and its website was down with a message on the home page stating that the “account has been suspended”.
The Education and Skills Funding Agency has so far not provided a comment – on what’s happening with the provider, or the findings of the damning Ofsted report.
A significant number of apprentices have had lengthy, enforced breaks in their learning because of the shortage of assessors
“A significant number of apprentices have had lengthy, enforced breaks in their learning because of the shortage of assessors, while some assessors have struggled to gain access to apprentices due to poor relationships with employers,” inspectors warned.
“As a result of these failings, most apprentices have not completed their qualifications in the planned time,” added the report.
“Too many” apprentices were said to be making slow or very slow progress.
“They are unable to complete the apprenticeship by the planned end date due to weak management of the programme and poor teaching, learning and assessment,” inspectors added.
Employers were said to be “not sufficiently involved” in planning, which resulted in apprentices getting insufficient support and guidance.
Added to this, “many highly skilled apprentices do not see the benefit of completing an apprenticeship”. “A few do not realise they are apprentices,” the report added. “Others have left the programme over 12 months ago, but the provider is unaware of their exit.”
Inspectors noted that most apprentices did not receive their “entitlement to off-the-job training”.
The government requires that apprenticeships spend 20 per cent of their time learning away from work.
The Vocational College Limited had 933 apprentices studying on apprenticeship frameworks at the time of inspection.
Of these, 800 were on programmes in manufacturing technologies for the glass industry, and 133 in business, administration and law.
It was also said to provide study programmes for 16 to 19 year olds – offering a range of vocational subjects from level one to three at its training centre in Wallasey, which is situated to the north-east of the Wirral.
“The board of directors and senior leaders have overseen a significant decline in the standards of education and training since the previous inspection,” the report said. “No governance arrangements exist to provide challenge and support for leaders.”
“Managers’ actions to improve quality are ineffectual; teaching, learning and assessment are inadequate.”
Senior leaders were said to have “not sustained the quality of the provision” grade two Ofsted inspection, and have “allowed a significant decline in standards”.