Serial entrepreneur’s new provider fails to impress Ofsted

A new provider run by a well-known entrepreneur has been criticised by Ofsted after inspectors found it making ‘insufficient progress’ in most areas of an early monitoring visit.

The Teaching and Learning Group, which has 24 apprentices, is owned by Angela Middleton, who is also a director of grade two provider MiddletonMurray Limited, and received an MBE from the Queen last year for services to apprenticeship training, youth employment and business.

A director of ten companies, Middleton boasts on her website of regularly consulting with businesses on the development of bespoke apprenticeship programmes.

Inspectors found a litany of issues at The Teaching and Learning Group, which started delivering non-levy funded apprenticeships in September 2018 in business administration, retail and digital marketing, accounting and finance, and leadership and management.

These include apprentices not receiving enough off-the-job training; managers not gathering information about apprentices’ attendance; and apprentices who have not submitted work in months being left off its managers’ risk register.

Recruitment consultant apprentices, who have been on the programme for five months, have had “no feedback and no work marked due to staff absences and changes to assessors,” the report reads.

Leaders do not use information about apprentices’ performance “well enough to understand the progress they make” and the data used by managers to identify apprentices at risk of failing are “not sharp enough to promote rapid intervention”.

Assessors at the independent provider have not visited a small minority of apprentices at their work within the least a year, and employers are “unfamiliar” with their apprentices’ training programme.

Tutors and assessors “do not provide apprentices with good enough support to develop their English and mathematics skills”.

Ultimately, “too many apprentices make slow progress”, Ofsted found, as “just over half of all apprentices are behind target for achievement”.

The tumult in apprenticeship provision was exacerbated by managers recently making “significant” changes to staffing.

Providers which are found to have made ‘insufficient progress’ in one or more areas of an early monitoring visit are suspended from recruiting apprentices under ESFA rules.

In response to Ofsted’s report, Middleton said the provider “has made substantial progress since the review”, and is “pleased” inspectors’ findings matched those in its’ self-assessment report and quality improvement plan.

This includes the findings that managers and leaders took remedial action after realising the standard of delivery and assessment on some programmes were stopping apprentices from making good progress; even though inspectors said the action had not yet enabled all apprentices to catch up on lost learning.

Leaders have taken “decisive action to address staff’s under-performance by providing additional training for assessors and restructuring the senior leadership team”, according to Ofsted, which added specialist managers and new assessors have a “sharper focus on their apprentices’ progress”.

Staff also recruit and match apprentices to employers and settings with integrity, and managers use an extensive contact network effectively to match employers to apprentices, which means all apprentices stay in learning.