Will DfE ban new apprenticeship providers with poor AEB provision in monitoring visits?

Ofsted is rating adult education in their monitoring visits of new apprenticeship providers – but the government doesn’t know if they’ll ban a provider if they’re making ‘insufficient progress’ in that theme alone.

In August the Education and Skills Funding Agency confirmed that any poor-performing provider with the rating in at least one of the themes under review will be barred from taking on any new apprentices – either directly or through a subcontracting arrangement.

These restrictions, applied unless there is an “exceptional extenuating circumstance”, will remain in place until the provider has received a full inspection and been awarded at least a grade three for its apprenticeship provision.

The vast majority of the monitoring visits only judge new providers on three fields – leadership of apprenticeship provision, apprenticeship training quality and safeguarding.

But a fourth category has appeared in some reports – for adult education.

Ofsted’s FE and skills handbook has a section dedicated to these early monitoring visits for new apprenticeship providers and states: “Should the provider have other types of provision (e.g. 16 to 19 study programme provision or funding for learners with high needs) that type of provision will be covered each with a separate theme.”

Other newly funded provision, such as advanced learner loans, will also be in scope for inspection.

The DfE’s rules about banning providers who are rated ‘insufficient’ in the early monitoring visit reports explicitly say it will suspend them from taking on “apprentices” but doesn’t mention what ramifications there are for adult learning, study programmes, or loans provision.

FE Week asked the department if it would ban an apprenticeship provider from taking on new learners if they were making insufficient progress just for their loans or adult education, but it couldn’t provide a clear answer.

“When an adult learning provider is found to be providing inadequate training or not making the expected progress we will not hesitate to take appropriate action,” a spokesperson said.

“This includes requiring that a provider put together a plan that will improve the quality of the education or training within a reasonable timeframe.”

Mark Dawe, boss of the AELP, criticised the government’s lack of clarity.

“It doesn’t look like as if the government’s policy has been fully thought through,” he told FE Week.

“Our view is that if a provider has made insufficient progress in adult education, then a stop on new adult education starts may be appropriate but not across all its programmes.”

There have been four early monitoring visit reports published by Ofsted so far that have judged adult education.

Northwest Education and Training Limited and Sccu Ltd both received ‘reasonable progress’ judgments in all themes, and N A College Trust received ‘significant progress’ ratings in two themes and ‘reasonable’ in the other two – including adult education.

The Education and Skills Partnership Limited was found to be making ‘insufficient progress’ in two themes, but ‘reasonable’ in the other two, again including for adult education.

As revealed by FE Week last month, the government has coughed up the full £5.4 million Ofsted requested to visit all new apprenticeship providers as it cracks down on poor provision continues.

Potentially as many as 1,200 providers could now be in scope for a two-day monitoring visit.

FE Week understands that around 30 of those have newly funded adult education funding, which will be in scope for inspection.