Apprenticeship register reapplication process branded a ‘farce’ by provider

An Ofsted grade two provider has hit out at the government’s “farcical” process for reapplying to the register of apprenticeship training providers, after its bid was rejected on a technicality.

According to the guidelines, providers can be exempt from filling out some parts of the application if they have received a short Ofsted inspection confirming an overall grade of at least “good” over the past three years, and they received the grade for apprenticeships in their most recent full inspection.

One provider specialising in delivering apprenticeships for over 20 years, but which did not wish to be named, was rated “good” overall in its last full inspection in 2014.

However, at this point the education watchdog didn’t give apprenticeships its own grade.

The provider’s most recent report was a short inspection last year, which meant that it maintained its grade two.

During its recent reapplication to RoATP, the provider said it was a grade two apprenticeship provider. But the Department for Education rejected the bid on the basis that, technically, they do not have an apprenticeship grade.

One senior figure at the provider told FE Week: “When is an Ofsted ‘good’ not ‘good’? When it’s an FE & Skills remit. It’s farcical that, as a provider specialising in apprenticeships for over 20 years, with an Ofsted ‘good’, we have to jump through more hoops to get on the register than a provider with a broader remit.

“Our time and money (or should I say the ESFA’s) could have been much better spent actually recruiting and training apprenticeships.”

The provider added it hasn’t been given a date from Bravo (the e-tendering portal) or from the ESFA on how much time it has to resubmit with the extra questions.

The DfE’s rejection email said: “Thank you for your application to the RoATP. Your application has not been taken forward for assessment due to an incorrectly claimed exemption regarding question PR-1:

“Within the last 3 years, have you had an Ofsted inspection and been awarded an ‘apprenticeship’ grade of ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ and maintained ESFA, SFA or EFA funding since that date?

“Please note, if your last inspection was a short Inspection (where no grade is given for apprenticeships) we looked at your last full Inspection to see if an apprenticeships grade was awarded.”

The email added that this rejected application does not count towards the two applications providers are permitted within a 12-month period limit.

FE Week reported last month that new applicants trying to get on to the register, which finally reopened on December 12 with more “stringent and challenging entry requirements”, had not heard the outcome of the application six months on.

A DfE spokesperson said this week that all providers that applied to be on the register in December, January and February “have been notified of the result”.

“An updated register will be published in due course,” she added. RoATP reopened more than a year after the last application window closed – a time period which left many providers wanting to get on it frustrated.

Some even exploited a loophole and attempted to buy their way on.

The new register is expected to bring greater scrutiny, following various FE Week investigations that discovered, for example, one-man bands with no delivery experience being given access to millions of pounds of apprenticeships funding.

While all providers will be asked to apply to the register even if they were already on there, subcontractors delivering less than £100,000 of provision a year have also been told they need to register.