‘Inadequate’ provider hands £2m adult education budget contract back

A training provider has handed back an adult education budget (AEB) contract of almost £2 million after Ofsted criticised it for the second time this year.

Total Training Company (UK) Limited was declared “inadequate” in its first full inspection last week. It was found to be making “insufficient progress” in an early monitoring report in February.

The family-owned provider delivers training in the construction industry and won £1.8 million from the West Midlands Combined Authority’s devolved AEB in May following a competitive tender.

According to last week’s Ofsted report, Total Training has 166 adult learners on its books. The programmes on offer support unemployed people who want to gain qualifications in the construction and logistics industry.

But, following the education’s watchdog latest verdict, the combined authority said the provider asked for its AEB contract to be taken off its hands.

“We received a request from Total Training to withdraw from our AEB contract as a training provider, following their recent Ofsted inspection where they were graded ‘inadequate’,” a spokesperson told FE Week.

“We have agreed to this request. The withdrawal notice was received on 18 November and took place with immediate effect.”

Total Training will complete the training for learners already enrolled under the contract. No new learners have been enrolled since 13 November.

The West Midlands (WMCA) spokesperson said it would be reviewing the performance of all its providers “over the coming months” and would redistribute the available funding.

The combined authority is not, however, cutting all ties with Total Training. It will “continue to deliver services to the WMCA under the Construction Gateway contract,” the spokesperson said.

“This contract includes delivery of short, two to four-week, job-focused training for Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) cards and progression into jobs.”

Total Training, which had direct contracts with the Education and Skills Funding Agency totalling £1.3 million last year, told FE Week that government skills funding contracts make up “just one stream of revenue for our company”.

A spokesperson added: “We are fortunate to have a very successful commercial construction training division which will enable us to continue trading and provide a stable backdrop for us to implement the required actions for improvement as highlighted in the findings from the Ofsted report.”

They added that Total Training does not currently hold any other contracts with the ESFA.

Under government rules, any provider rated “inadequate” by Ofsted is removed from the register of apprenticeship training providers and banned from delivering the programmes.

The ESFA will usually also terminate a provider’s skills funding contracts within three months of a  grade-four Ofsted report being published, unless there are extenuating circumstances. But as the West Midlands Combined Authority has its AEB devolved, it does not have to abide by this rule.

A spokesperson for the combined authority said it has a “contractual clause” that enables it to terminate a contract where a provider receives a grade four from Ofsted.

Total Training was rated “inadequate” in every assessed area of its Ofsted full inspection except behaviour and attitudes, which “requires improvement”.

At the time of the inspection there were 166 adult learners and 25 apprentices across the North-East and the West Midlands.

The report stated that learners and apprentices “do not experience a well-planned programme of study” and they are “not supported to develop their talents or interests”.

Ofsted also found that only a “low” proportion of adult learners successfully gain employment or move onto further learning while “too many apprentices leave their programme early”.

Safeguarding arrangements were considered “effective”, however.