Speedy Ofsted criticism of provider just months after multi-million pound purchase

A new provider that was allowed to recruit over 1,000 apprentices before being inspected has been found making ‘insufficient progress’ by Ofsted in a monitoring visit. 

Prospects Training International Limited trades as Geason Training and was acquired by Speedy, one of the UK’s leading tool hire services company, in a deal worth up to £26 million in December.

Within the first few months of the takeover the provider has been stung by the education watchdog, which found only a fifth of learners complete their programme on time.

Geason started delivering apprenticeships with its own direct contract in 2017, but also had 11 subcontracts worth £4.6 million as at September 2018, including with the likes of the country’s largest college group NCG and West Nottinghamshire College.

At the time of the Ofsted visit in April it had 1,017 of its own apprentices. Inspectors found leaders and managers do not ensure that the principles and requirements of an apprenticeship are met, with “too many” learners receiving a poor standard of training and having insufficient opportunity to take part in off-the-job training.

They also criticised the senior management team, which has been “too slow to implement effective strategies to ensure that apprentices develop substantial new knowledge, skills and behaviours”.

However, Ofsted pointed out the provider has recently recruited a new management team, which has implemented new strategies to improve apprentices’ experiences.

A spokesperson for Geason said whilst it was “extremely disappointed” with the outcome, it would not be challenging the findings.

“The report recognises that actions highlighted during our own self-assessment report have been implemented, and that we continue to make good progress with the current actions contained within our quality improvement plan,” he added.

“Our utmost priority is to continue to support the learning of our apprentices and we are confident of demonstrating the impact of our quality improvement plan at our full inspection in due course.”

The majority of apprentices at Geason study construction-related programmes, with around a quarter studying business-focused apprenticeships in digital marketing, administration, business management, and information and communication technology.

In November, FE Week reported it was one of the providers poaching staff and apprentices from the defunct Aspire Achieve Advance, better known as 3aaa. At the time, it was understood Geason had taken on 3aaa’s former quality director and was trying to recruit around 40 other former staff.

FE Week has since learnt that Geason took on a total of 238 of 3aaa’s apprentices.

Leaders at the provider were found not knowing how well apprentices progress in developing the knowledge and skills that they need to be successful in their job, failing to swiftly intervene when apprentices make slow progress, according to Ofsted. As a result, only one fifth of apprentices have completed their programme last year.

Trainers also do not have a clear understanding of what apprentices know and what they need to learn, and their planning of apprentices’ training is “poor”, the watchdog found.

It added that managers and trainers “rightly recognise” that the initial advice and guidance for most apprentices prior to the start of this new year were poor, which led to a significant majority of apprentices leaving their programme early and failed to achieve their apprenticeship.

But following the implementation of more rigorous checks before apprentices start the programme, there has been an improvement in the experience of most starters, even if just for a “very small minority” of them.

Under Education and Skills Funding Agency rules, any provider with an ‘insufficient’ rating in an early monitoring visit Ofsted report will be banned from taking on any new apprentices until the grade improves.