A large training provider has changed owners and “removed” its chief executive following an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted judgment.
BCTG Limited was downgraded from ‘good’ to the lowest possible rating in a report published by the watchdog today, which slammed a “lack of focus” on the quality of education amid a “significant strategic decision” to switch from subcontracting to direct delivery.
The provider offers training to almost 2,250 learners and apprentices nationally through multi-million-pound contracts with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). At least one contract has already been terminated in light of Ofsted’s judgment.
Since the inspection last month, BCTG’s owner Chris Luty has handed control of the company to Alan Phillips.
Phillips told FE Week the senior leadership team was “devastated with the result”, adding that he has taken “swift and decisive action, resulting in removal of the CEO” Sarah Matthews.
Matthews, however, claimed that she “resigned” from the role after Ofsted’s visit.
Phillips would not comment on the future of the company’s funding contracts or other potential job losses but said: “Communication has been ongoing with stakeholders, partners and funding bodies and our priority now is to continue supporting our learners and customers whilst also initiating an immediate and incisive action plan.”
The WMCA told FE Week a recently awarded pre-employment contract for an undisclosed amount, which has no starts to date, will be pulled from BCTG.
But the combined authority has ruled that BCTG can continue to manage a £9 million sector-based work academies consortium contract that was awarded in January 2022, although it is up for renewal in December. A spokesperson added that WMCA will “enhance its quality oversight of supply chain delivery and management at BCTG” during this period.
The ESFA declined to comment on whether BCTG will be allowed to keep a £1.6 million skills bootcamps contract as well as its near-£4 million advance learner loans contract. Nor would the agency say whether the provider would remain in the apprenticeships market, which is a possibility considering Ofsted judged apprenticeships as ‘requires improvement’ despite the overall ‘inadequate’ rating.
‘A lack of focus on the quality of education’
BCTG launched in 2001 and has largely offered publicly funded training as a prime provider who subcontracts the delivery out to other providers. It still currently works with 26 subcontractors who provide adult work-based learning through short courses in sectors like health, care, public services and construction.
The government has cracked down on subcontracting in recent years which forced BCTG to move to more direct delivery. As well as adult education budget courses, the provider delivers apprenticeships, study programmes to 16- to 19-year-olds, skills bootcamps and advanced learner loans.
Today’s Ofsted report said: “During this period of change, leaders rightly recognise that there has been a lack of focus on the quality of education that learners on education programmes for young people and learners with high needs receive.”
Senior leaders have recently introduced additional advisory board members which has led to “early improvements” following changes in adult courses and apprenticeship curriculums and a halt to recruitment in some subjects.
But the quality of education across subjects and learner groups “remains inconsistent”, inspectors warned, adding that delivery for high-needs learners and young people is “poor”.
Leaders also “do not sufficiently risk assess” their subcontractors, nor do they conduct visits to their subcontractors “frequently enough to ensure that they continue to provide high-quality education”.
Ofsted did find that “most” learners on adult short courses, such as sector-based work academy programmes and skills bootcamps, develop substantial new knowledge, skills and behaviours. But the proportion of learners who move into employment following completion of their short course is “low”.
Too many apprentices also do not complete their apprenticeship on time, an issue which has held apprentices back from taking their next career or education steps.
Today’s report did however praise BCTG’s training advisers for creating an inclusive environment as well as a “positive and respectful culture”. Safeguarding was also judged to be “effective”.
Phillips said: “BCTG has made a substantial contribution to the skills and education sector over many decades, supporting individuals, employers, partners and communities across a range of projects and initiatives.”