Major subcontractor heavily criticised in 'insufficient' Ofsted monitoring visit report

A major subcontractor has been heavily criticised in a new apprenticeship provider Ofsted monitoring visit report that found it to be making ‘insufficient progress’ in all areas under review.

Cumbria-based NC Training started delivering levy-funded apprenticeships in July 2017, but also held eight subcontracts worth £1.6 million last year.

The verdict means it can expect to be barred from taking on new apprentices – and it could face losing its place on the register of apprenticeship training providers, according to Education and Skills Funding Agency rules.

NC Training’s managing director Nicola Cassley told FE Week she was “deeply disheartened by the comments made” but did not indicate whether she felt they were fair.

“We would like to focus on the future, which means providing our stakeholders with the best possible training and ensuring we receive a good grading at our full inspection.”

“Leaders and managers are not complying with the levy-funded apprenticeship requirements,” the report said.

Apprentices were not being recruited to programmes that “help them to develop new knowledge, skills and behaviours, or support their career advancement”.

“Too many apprentices reported to inspectors that they had been in their job roles for a number of years and that they were not learning anything new,” the report said.

Some were found to be “completing a second apprenticeship at a lower level than the first”.

Most apprentices – “particularly the most able” – were making “slow progress”, the report said.

Many were not receiving their full entitlement to off-the-job training, and “in a few instances” did not even know what it was.

Safeguarding at the provider was “not sufficiently effective”.

A “very newly appointed” safeguarding officer had “recognised quickly the need to implement more robust safeguarding arrangements” but had not yet had time to put these into place.

NC Training, founded in 2016, held subcontractors with eight prime providers in 2017/18, according to the ESFA’s most recent listed of declared subcontractors.

These were worth a combined total of £1.6 million, with the largest – for £488,091 – with college group NCG.

The ESFA confirmed in August that Ofsted would have the final say over poor-performing apprenticeship providers, following confusion over which agency was accountable for quality.

A provider found to be making ‘insufficient progress’ in one or more themes under review would be barred from taking on any new apprentices, until they have been rated at least ‘requires improvement’ following a full inspection.

Ofsted later clarified that this would take place within a year of the monitoring visit.

However, if monitoring visit uncovers concerns about safeguarding, the ESFA “reserves the right to remove an organisation from the register” – although this is only in cases where the inspectorate has “identified a significant risk to apprentices”.