Damning Ofsted visit brands special needs charity’s apprenticeships ‘inadequate’

A charity which supports people with special needs has been rated ‘inadequate’ in every category in a damning Ofsted report, after inspectors found apprentices were not released from their job roles to complete training.

Creative Support has been heavily criticised by the inspectorate, which warned the provision offered by the nation-wide employer provider “does not meet the objectives or requirements of apprenticeships”.

The report said that since October 2016, when the charity began to offer adult care apprenticeships, approximately one third of apprentices have left the company without completing the programme and most make “slow” progress and do not “sufficiently” develop occupational skills.

Leaders have also “failed to ensure that service managers release apprentices from their job roles” for their off-the-job training during work time.

As it has been rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted, Creative Support will now be removed from the register of apprenticeship training providers and banned from delivering its own apprenticeships.

A spokesperson for the charity said it was “disappointed” by the outcome of its first Ofsted inspection, and that going forward it would be “working with carefully selected external agencies to deliver apprenticeships”.

She added: “We are currently reviewing the findings and we are in the process of putting an improvement plan in place.

“Our priority is to ensure that our current cohort of highly-valued apprentices have a positive experience for the duration of their programme and can demonstrate good learning outcomes.”

Creative Support, which offers a range of services including supported living, residential care and home support and operates across 65 local authorities, had 85 employees on its apprenticeship programmes when it was inspected on September 25.

The report, which was published today, said that “too often, apprentices do not have the English and maths skills needed to support them effectively in their job roles” and described assessors’ reviews of apprentices’ progress as “weak”.

“Assessors do not check sufficiently apprentices’ depth of understanding and knowledge,” the report said.

“When apprentices cannot answer questions well enough, assessors too quickly assume that this is due to apprentices’ anxiety rather than their limited understanding of the topic. Too few assessors have high expectations of apprentices’.”

It warned that “too many apprentices” were not on the appropriate level of programme, and “most” are “unclear” about when they are due to complete, and said the standard of apprentices’ work was “not good enough”, including some having an “inaccurate understanding of their responsibility for risk assessments in care settings.”

Most apprentices have already been working for several years in their jobs, and inspectors found that they do not develop enough new work-related behaviours from their training.

“At best, they deepen their existing knowledge and at worst they develop no new skills,” the report said.

Ofsted said the provider must “as a matter of urgency” implement effective governance arrangements to allow trustees to challenge and support leaders and managers.

They must also monitor and improve the quality of teaching and develop measures to “ensure the full commitment and effective support of service managers for their apprentices’ training”, including releasing them for off-the-job training during work time and attending progress review meetings.

However, the report praised staff for promoting a “strong ethos of treating individuals fairly and respecting differences”, safeguarding is effective and apprentices “benefit significantly” from a range of additional qualifications.

Ofsted criticised the planning of the curriculum as “inadequate” and said managers do not have a “reliable and accurate” understanding of apprentices’ progress, and many do not receive their full entitlements to off-the-job training.

Quality improvement procedures were described as “not effective” and self-assessment is “not accurate”. Trustees have received “insufficient information” to understand the quality of teaching provided and as a result have “failed to hold leaders and managers to account”.