A new apprenticeship provider blames the impact of Covid for a second poor Ofsted report and is hoping to be given a rare lifeline by the government.
Doncaster Conferences, Catering and Events Limited (DCCE) could be kicked off the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) after the inspectorate found it had made ‘insufficient progress’ in consecutive monitoring visits between February and October 2020.
But the provider contests that the restrictions placed on the hospitality industry due to the coronavirus pandemic “hampered” its ability to deliver the progress required.
When asked whether DCCE would be removed, the ESFA equivocated by saying that, while it “will always take action to protect apprentices if a training provider is not fit for purpose”, they were “currently assessing Ofsted’s findings” and would contact the provider to set out what actions they will take “in due course”.
In DCCE’s latest report, published on Monday, inspectors pulled the provider up on how: “Almost all the apprentices that remain on their programme are beyond their planned end date and are making slow progress towards achieving their apprenticeship.”
The report says DCCE had 20 apprentices at the time of writing, all of whom were employed by the charity that owns the provider, Doncaster Culture & Leisure Trust, which runs several leisure facilities in the town.
At the time of the visit, ten apprentices were studying a customer service practitioner programme at level 2, six were studying a level 3 leisure duty manager or team leader/supervisor programme, and four were on a level 5 operations/departmental manager apprenticeship.
A “great majority” of them, the report reads, “have not acquired substantial new skills or knowledge since the previous monitoring visit”.
Furthermore, DCCE’s staff had not ensured apprentices receive their entitlement to off-the-job training, so the provider’s delivery “still does not meet the principles of an apprenticeship”.
Apprentices who were beyond the end date for their apprenticeship are “yet to be provided with any work” to prepare them for their assessments in English and maths, the report continues.
The apprentices were put on furlough following the UK’s first lockdown in March, and inspectors found once they returned, tutors had been “too slow” to make contact with them, limiting the progress the apprentices have made.
DCCE has protested that when the apprentices returned to work in July or August, their position had changed “significantly” due to the changes put upon the leisure and hospitality industry because of Covid-19.
A spokesperson told FE Week: “It is fair to say the lockdown period and then the restrictions placed on our industry have undoubtedly hampered our ability to deliver the progress required at this point.”
DCCE has since moved to improve its apprenticeship programme, saying it has already completed a structural review of teaching, and recruited a trustee with school governor experience.
There was also a further review to ensure its programme is “fit for purpose”.
Providers who receive ‘insufficient progress’ ratings at two consecutive monitoring visits are “normally” pulled from the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers, according to ESFA rules.
This means that, although the provider can continue to deliver to its existing apprentices, it cannot start any new apprentices and must wait at least 18 months from the date of the monitoring visit report that judged them to have made ‘insufficient progress’ before reapplying to the register.