Welsh college rapped by Ofsted

A Welsh college is to be suspended from recruiting apprentices in England after Ofsted found it making ‘insufficient progress’ in all areas of an early monitoring visit.

Gower College Swansea, which claims to have “award winning apprenticeship delivery” in Wales, moved to deliver the provision across the border in October 2017.

Its apprenticeship offer in England has started small, where 57 levy-funded apprentices are currently trained. Ofsted’s visit focussed solely on this provision, around half of which is delivered by a subcontractor.

The feedback from Ofsted’s new provider monitoring visit was clearly very disappointing

The watchdog found a catalogue of issues, namely that the college does not ensure that its provision complies with the principles and requirements of an apprenticeship programme.

Inspectors found that leaders do not make sure that all apprentices receive their full entitlement of off-the-job training during working hours, and tutors do not place “enough importance” on apprentices developing their English and math skills.

Managers do not involve apprentices’ employers and workplace supervisors in the training and development of their employees, which leads to apprentices not benefitting from enough “carefully planned” on-the-job learning.

“Leaders’ self-assessment of the quality of provision is insufficiently evaluative,” inspectors said.

Tutors were criticised for not taking account apprentices’ starting points. As a result, more confident and competent apprentices “do not make the rapid progress of which they are capable”.

They also do not give “sufficiently detailed” feedback to apprentices which means they do not know what they need to do to achieve higher grades in their end-point assessment.

Safeguarding was also an issue raised by Ofsted.

Leaders and managers “do not ensure that all apprentices receive training in safeguarding and the ‘Prevent’ duty” and as a result, “too many apprentices do not have the information they need in order to keep themselves safe”.

Ofsted did however praise leaders for ensuring that apprentices enrol on the correct programme at the most appropriate level, the large majority of which stay on programme.

“Apprentices take on new responsibilities at work,” inspectors added. “Many apprentices increase in confidence as a result of their training.

“Apprentices benefit from well-qualified tutors who deliver theory and practical training that help apprentices relate what they learn to their job roles.”

Gower College Swansea said Ofsted’s feedback was “clearly very disappointing”.

“Whilst the College has a long standing record for the delivery of high quality apprenticeship provision in Wales, our delivery in England has been kept intentionally small and to date has been limited to six employers, mainly in the south of the country,” a spokesperson explained.

“Although our predicted qualification achievement and retention and rates are very good indeed, it is fully recognised that there are still improvements that we need to make in terms of some of the different expectations required in England.

“We therefore accept Ofsted’s findings and are confident that we can make the necessary improvements to enhance the service we offer to our apprentices and employers in England – building on our award winning apprenticeship delivery in Wales.”

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