A care worker apprenticeship provider is challenging a damaging Ofsted report and accused inspectors of lacking the knowledge to judge their provision.

Flexible Training Ltd was found to have made ‘insufficient progress’ in all three areas of an early monitoring visit for its provision of adult care apprenticeships to 21 learners.

One key criticism by inspectors was that the Hertfordshire-based provider’s safeguarding arrangements were “inappropriate and a conflict of interest”. The owner of their apprentices’ employer is the designated lead but is not employed by the provider, so is “not impartial” to learners’ needs.

Leaders were also lambasted for not providing an “ambitious curriculum”, and for not enabling apprentices to “develop new knowledge and skills beyond the care qualification”.

As a result of the ‘insufficient’ judgment, the provider now faces a ban on starts under Education and Skills Funding Agency rules.

Flexible Training has been delivering standards-based apprenticeships since October 2018, and when asked for a response to the report, the provider’s managing director Jason Dudderidge listed a series of complaints about the way in which they were inspected.

He criticised the inspectors’ “lack of specialist knowledge” of the care sector.

“I believe that had they been competent in this sector, they would have been able to inspect in a more positive, productive and realistic way.

“Ofsted inspectors need to have experience in this sector as it is too regulated to guess your way around,” he insisted.

Dudderidge also accused the watchdog of publishing inaccuracies. He said the safeguarding lead was previously employed by the provider and then left to start her own care company but was still listed as one of their safeguarding leads.

This was addressed “immediately” after Ofsted flagged the issue, with responsibilities being transferred to a member of staff before the inspection in March was finished.

Ofsted also found that although the provider’s assessors have continued progress reviews for apprentices during the pandemic, they have “not continued to teach apprentices to enable them to make good progress”.

Apprentices, who all work for one domiciliary care employer, also “do not benefit from high-quality off-the-job training”.

The curriculum is not tailored for apprentices’ existing knowledge and skills appropriately, the report adds, and assessors do not make “effective” use of available online resources to teach apprentices so they can make good progress.

Yet Dudderidge said this was all “factually incorrect,” as evidence of the apprentices’ qualification requirements, mandatory training requirements and the apprentices’ prior learning was shown to the inspectors.

How teaching practices had been adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic; how apprentices have progressed in a timely manner; and the fact that none was overdue were also presented to the watchdog, he added. But, claimed Dudderidge, all this was “not considered and disregarded”.

Inspectors asked to visit the apprentices’ workplace, but Dudderidge said they were not allowed because of coronavirus restrictions, which he alleges “did not please” the watchdog’s team.

The report notes assessors have been unable to visit workplaces for face-to-face reviews and observations.

“They constantly challenged us in regard to visiting care homes which, as the country, and the world, knows, is something that has not been permitted, not even for residents’ families, since March 2020, in line with government guidance,” Dudderidge said.

“It was apparent the lead inspector ‘did not like us’ and as a result of this she led the inspection, clearly influencing the other inspector at times with her opinions, as she has expressed within this report.”

He told FE Week he intends to formally challenge the inspection result.

An Ofsted spokesperson said it “would be inappropriate for us to comment on individual cases or complaints”.