BCTG bounces back from damning Ofsted judgment 

Birmingham provider aims to 'rise from the ashes' with more contracts following 'dark period'

Birmingham provider aims to 'rise from the ashes' with more contracts following 'dark period'

A long-standing training provider on the brink of collapse 12 months ago following a damning Ofsted judgment is now aiming to “rise from the ashes”.  

The Birmingham-based BCTG Ltd, which launched in 2001 and trained thousands of apprentices and adults every year, saw its multi-million-pound apprenticeship, skills bootcamps and advance learner loans contracts terminated in 2023 after it was downgraded from ‘good’ to ‘inadequate’.   

But the provider was allowed to keep its adult education contract with the West Midlands Combined Authority to deliver sector-based work academy programmes (SWAPs) and secured an extension worth £2.5 million, which runs until this September.  

Ofsted’s first follow-up monitoring visit in May was positive, with the watchdog’s report this week scoring three ‘reasonable progress’ judgments and one ‘significant progress’.  

The company’s new chief executive and former finance director, Alan Phillips, is hoping to secure an overall ‘good’ grade through a full reinspection before the SWAPs contract ends. If successful, BCTG will look to bid for more skills contracts and grow the business once more, potentially starting off as a subcontractor for other primes.  

Phillips said: “We’re back rocking and rolling if we secure the Ofsted full inspection improvement. Maybe not up to the size that we were … I’d rather have something small and efficient than large and potentially another ‘inadequate’.”  

Soon after it was hit with the low grade, BCTG Group sold its subsidiaries PTP Training and Eurosouce Solutions for almost £800,000.  

Phillips told FE week he has tried to operate the company “with my hands and legs tied” over the past year as he reduced the staff headcount from 90 to 10.  

While hundreds of SWAPs courses have been delivered this year, just 10 students were in learning at the time of Ofsted’s recent monitoring visit. More are coming on board over the coming months, but all teaching is delivered by subcontractors. Phillips’s aim is to shift BCTG to mostly direct delivery if his company does secure more funding contracts. 

 One of the key criticisms in Ofsted’s ‘inadequate’ report last year was a “lack of focus” on the quality of education amid a “significant strategic decision” to switch from subcontracting to direct delivery.  

Phillips said the judgment was harsh, but from his perspective as finance director at the time, the company’s then owners and chief executive had “lost control”.  

He said the 10 staff BCTG has now are “highly skilled, and you can see from the Ofsted monitoring, they’ve turned it around completely”.  

“I’ve had to run a very, very slimmed-down organisation, but fortunately, we had the backing of the company to finance this dark period. The skills of our staff all round have been enhanced … I’m really confident that going forward, so long as we can keep grips on the growth and not get ahead of ourselves, we can provide a five-star service.”  

Ofsted’s policy states that it will fully reinspect ‘inadequate’ providers within 12 to 15 months of the judgment, which means the earliest BCTG can get a full inspection is this month and the latest should be September.  

Amy Williams, BCTG’s head of quality, said: “It’s been tough and it’s been a mountain that we’re still trying to climb, but we have been on a positive journey.   

“We are still standing strong and still hopeful of our future, despite the many obstacles and challenges we face on a daily basis.”

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