Ofsted exposes apprenticeship firm for recruiting without ‘integrity’ and breaking funding rules

A new provider has been exposed by Ofsted after inspectors found it failed to recruit apprentices with “integrity” and was in breach of government funding rules.

Citrus Training Solutions, based in Pudsey, was paid an early monitoring visit by inspectors in December which resulted in an ‘insufficient’ report being published today.

Despite training nearly 200 apprentices, it only has two full-time members of staff: a financial officer and the chief executive, Vincent McNamara, who owns all the company’s shares.

Four other organisations, either owned or co-owned by Mr McNamara, are responsible for provision which includes level 2 to 5 apprenticeships in a range of sectors including health and social care, construction, business and facilities management, IT, security and financial services.

But Ofsted found that leaders and managers “do not have sufficient oversight of the quality of training that apprentices receive or the progress that apprentices make on their programmes”.

They are “unaware that many apprentices do not learn anything new” and are “not fully conversant with the funding requirements of an apprenticeship and so claim funding for apprentices who have not completed any learning”.

Ofsted also found that CTS does not have permission from the Education and Skills Funding Agency for one of the subcontractors – Assess to Progress Limited – to provide training on its behalf.

“Leaders and managers fail to ensure that they hold their delivery partner, Assess to Progress Limited, to account for the poor experience that their apprentices receive,” inspectors said.

“Furthermore, leaders and managers have not gained permission from the ESFA for Assess to Progress Limited to provide training on behalf of CTS.

“Consequently, Assess to Progress Limited is not on the list of declared subcontractors.”

When asked if the Department for Education would now take action against the provider, a DfE spokesperson said: “We will always take action to protect the interests of apprentices. We are currently assessing Ofsted’s findings and will be contacting Citrus Training Solutions to set out the action we will be taking in due course.”

The education watchdog’s report also slammed the provider for enrolling apprentices on “inappropriate courses”.

“Leaders and managers have failed to recruit apprentices with integrity,” it said.

“Too many apprentices enrol on inappropriate programmes. Consequently, these apprentices do not learn anything new, and the programmes merely accredit their existing knowledge, skills and behaviours.

“For example, apprentices on level 2 construction programmes complete their apprenticeship within the first four months of a 12-month programme, following very little training.

“Assessors readily acknowledge they will not submit a claim for the completion of the apprenticeship for another eight months, even though they do not plan any further training.”

The integrity of providers has become a watchword for Ofsted and was one of the major themes at the launch of a consultation on the watchdog’s new inspection framework last week.

While introducing the consultation at the Sixth Form Colleges Association, chief inspector Amanda Spielman criticised providers for being funded for apprentices “whether or not they are really learning anything”.

Ofsted concluded that leaders and managers at CTS “do not ensure that they meet the principles and requirements of an apprenticeship”.

CTS declined to comment.