A leading commercial training provider for the legal profession has been reprimanded by Ofsted for being too “inexperienced” to deliver high-quality apprenticeships.

Datalaw Limited, which has provided professional development for law firms for more than 20 years, made “insufficient progress” in two areas of a new provider monitoring visit conducted last month.

The company moved into the apprenticeships market two years ago and trains about 100 apprentices on standards in leadership and management at levels 3 and 5, as well as the level 3 paralegal and technical salesperson apprenticeships.

Under Education and Skills Funding Agency rules, any new training provider that receives at least one “insufficient” score is suspended from recruiting new apprentices.

 

Coaches not trained in ‘craft’ of delivering apprenticeships

Ofsted praised the provider’s coaches for their experience in the legal sector, but warned they were “inexperienced in teaching apprenticeships”.

Inspectors found Datalaw’s leaders “do not provide training for coaches on the craft of teaching or the delivery of apprenticeships”.

As such, the coaches “do not understand the requirements of an apprenticeships”.

Datalaw is based in Liverpool but operates across multiple regions.

Ofsted found that leaders have not ensured its apprentices receive enough training.

Rather, the apprentices were “left to learn independently with very little teaching”.

Coaches carry out monthly coaching calls to apprentices which, inspectors reported, often last less than half an hour. Between these calls,  apprentices are left with little or no support from their coach to complete questions and research.

The watchdog did highlight that the provider had a “clear rationale” for delivering apprenticeships, by focusing on upskilling law firms’ administrative staff through the level 3 paralegal curriculum.

But its leaders did not ensure they met the principles of an apprenticeship: not coordinating what apprentices learnt on and off the job, and making them complete units in the same order, regardless of their job.

Due to their lack of knowledge, leaders were not able to challenge the consultants on whom they relied “too much” to set up and run apprenticeships.

 

Apprentices had ‘limited’ knowledge of final exams

Provider bosses had also been slow to identify and engage with assessment organisations, and apprentices were found to have “limited” knowledge of the requirements for their final exams.

Level 3 team leader learners “have not received adequate training and support to prepare them for their final assessment”, inspectors warned, despite them nearing the end of their course.

Furthermore, leaders had “no plans” to complete functional skills examinations.

Apprentices were left to do their own research into how to become a solicitor or court advocate, as Datalaw does not provide them with careers advice or guidance.

Inspectors did find that the provider had made “reasonable progress” with its safeguarding measures, with apprentices reporting they feel safe.

Datalaw did not respond to requests for comment.