Provider pulls out of apprenticeships after second Ofsted mauling

The training arm of an engineering trade association has pulled out of apprenticeships in England after it was slammed by Ofsted for “unacceptable” delivery, for the second time.

Piper Training Ltd, part of the building engineering services association (BESA) – which is also an end-point assessment organisation for nine apprenticeship standards, was judged ‘inadequate’ in a report published yesterday.

The Cumbrian-based provider had already been suspended from recruiting apprentices following ‘insufficient progress’ ratings across the board in an early monitoring report from April.

It was training 68 heating and ventilation apprentices at the time of the most recent inspection, but delivery was wholly subcontracted.

Ofsted found that a “few” learners were “angry because their assessors have not visited them in their workplace frequently enough” which has caused them to make “very slow progress”.

The variation in the quality of training is “unacceptable”, inspectors said, adding that apprentices studying standards-based apprenticeships “do not receive enough information to help them fully understand their end-point assessment requirements”.

Governors, senior leaders and managers were criticised for not having an “accurate understanding of the quality of their apprenticeship provision” that is delivered solely through subcontractors, their monitoring of which is “poor”.

Leaders do not know whether the curriculum is designed well or delivered in a logical order and they are unaware of the progress apprentices make through their programmes.

They were also unaware that around a fifth of apprentices have not had workplace visits for several months.

Ofsted did recognise that the senior leadership team had recently changed and had implemented new monitoring processes to get a clear oversight of the quality of apprentices’ experiences.

However, it was still too early to see their impact.

Despite the poor provision, inspectors added that apprentices “want to achieve and do well”, they “enjoy” their training sessions, attend regularly, feel safe, and are “respectful towards each other, teachers, colleagues and customers”.

Training providers that are judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted typically have their funding contracts terminated by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, and are kicked off of the register of apprenticeship training providers.

BESA would not reveal who it subcontracted the provision to, but told FE Week it has already decided to stop delivering apprenticeships in England.

It will, however, continue to offer the programmes in Scotland and Wales as they are unaffected by Ofsted’s report. BESA will also continue to deliver end-point assessments.

The trade association’s director of training, Helen Yeulet, said: “We are disappointed with the outcome, but we respect the verdict of the regulator.

“We recently announced that BESA training has a new team with a new business strategy in England, which refocuses our resources where we can make the most impact for the sector. It is now our priority to get on with the job of delivering this exciting new approach.

“As an end-point assessment organisation, BESA is looking for employers to assist in ensuring the delivery is of a high quality and encourage employers and members to get involved.”

She added: “BESA training will now become the ‘bridge’ between employers and training centres in England and will encourage employers to get involved in course development to ensure the training model meets their requirements.

“BESA will also be putting more resources into short courses and experienced worker programmes in order to support much needed growth in adult training and upskilling across the sector.”