For a second year the critical qualification achievement rates (QAR) for providers will not be published, but unlike last year the data will be privately shared with Ofsted.

The inspectorate will again be able to use the QAR data in their inspection judgements as well as being central to their published ‘risk-assessment-methodology’ when deciding which colleges and training providers to visit.

Announcing the decision, the DfE said this morning: “QARs, usually published for certain post-16 providers, were suspended for 2019 to 2020 due to coronavirus.

“For 2020 to 2021, QARs will not be published but will be produced and shared securely with providers, Ofsted and DfE.”

QAR data, which is used to measure providers’ performance and hold them to account, was scrapped for the 2019/20 academic year following the Covid-19 outbreak. Providers were not able to receive the data themselves and it was not shared with the inspectorate.

When asked how the inspectorate plans to use this year’s QAR data, an Ofsted spokesperson said: “Decisions on the use of achievement rate data for 2020/21 will be made in due course.”

The decision has attracted split views from the sector.

Association of Employment and Learning Providers managing director Jane Hickie said that “on balance”, giving Ofsted access to QARs “doesn’t seem unreasonable, although the authorities should bear in mind that some perfectly good providers are struggling right now in terms of achievement rates because of the covid restrictions”.

“If you are in tier 3, for example, the challenge to deliver well is harder,” she added.

“At the same time, providers won’t want to sit back thinking that ungraded inspections mean that they can switch off.

“They believe that the approach which Ofsted has taken since March has been entirely sensible and are ready to work with the inspectorate to give an accurate picture to employers and learners of the quality of their provision.”

Tony Allen, an ex-deputy director of the government’s skills funding agency and now runs his own apprenticeship consultancy firm, said that he struggled to see, from a “transparency viewpoint”, why the data “is not going to be published for year two” of the pandemic.

“Covid has impacted but isn’t that the point…everyone knows that Covid has impacted,” he added.

“Why are we denying employers access to invaluable intelligence for a second year?”

QARs calculate what proportion of learning was successfully completed in each academic year by providers.

They are produced for apprenticeships, adult education and 16 to 18 programmes.

The latest achievement rates were published in March for the 2018/19 year and showed the overall national rate for apprenticeships dropped 2.2 per cent points to just 64.7 per cent.

The ESFA minimum standard threshold sits at an achievement rate of 62 per cent.

If more than 40 percent of a provider’s provision fails to meet the minimum standard then intervention can be as severe as contract termination, in line with the ESFA’s “oversight of independent training providers” operational guidance.