BCTG changes owner and ‘removes’ CEO after Ofsted battering

Provider slammed for 'lack of focus' on quality following switch from subcontracting to direct delivery

Provider slammed for 'lack of focus' on quality following switch from subcontracting to direct delivery

27 Jul 2023, 16:18

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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.”

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9 Comments

  1. Maybe take a look at the Directors remuneration in their accounts for previous years (and those for a single Director). If you think College principals are overpaid think again. Compare the earnings to the overall wage bill of the company! Mr Luty was probably quite happy to walk away!!

    • Jenni

      Oh wow, glad I left when I did.
      Management there are corrupt so no wonder they got this grade.
      My manager was awful she just bossed us around and did nothing herself, sat in her ivory tower.
      Feel so sorry for the hard working staff

    • JustSaying

      Yes Xx .
      Just like FE college principals and senior colleagues who walk away as millionaires with their £1m+ pension pots when they choose to leave !

  2. Anonymous

    Before people jump to conclusions about motives, it may be worth looking at the statement issued by Chris Luty on 4th July regarding senior management changes.
    ‘The ESFA and WMCA have an explicit policy that considers Owners or Directors of Providers who receive an inadequate Ofsted Grade as being potentially ‘High Risk Individuals’. This means ESFA or WMCA has the power to terminate current contracts, or not allow bidding for new contracts by organisations led by individuals who breech these conditions.
    Because of this policy, I recognise that my continuing role as Director of BCTG and PTP Training will impact any recovery for BCTG and the ability of PTP to win new business. I must put the interests of the staff, learners and the wider business first, so I will step down as Director of BCTG Ltd, PTP Training and the Apprenticeship Works by 31st July 2023, (he actually left the business on 18th July)
    BCTG is still a solvent company, and until this poor Ofsted Outcome, the business had a very positive outlook.
    Some people assume that its only about the money, it isn’t… it’s about trying to build something that supports learners and creates jobs for people.
    So for anyone who has spent decades building a business, I’m sure it must have been a difficult decision for both Chris Luty & Sarah Matthews to step aside in these circumstances.

    • This result just shows the incompetence of the management team.
      Have you seen the glass door reviews over the last 18 months all points to the same things that OFSTED have found.
      Bullying culture and staff leaving.
      Maybe this result will sort the issues out

      • Anonymous

        The bullying comment is very generalised and certainly NOT true of my manager, who was nothing short of supportive, understanding and extremely positive during my time with the business.

      • With regards to Glassdoor, one bad apple doesn’t make the whole tree rotten, it’s unfair to the rest of the SLT team that were more than competent and dedicated.
        There are a lot of good people at BCTG that have worked so hard to make a difference and when posting negativity please remember this will result in job losses for many so it really isn’t a time to gloat.

        • I very much agree with the gloating comment – people are in a real stressful situation, worrying about their futures, they livelihoods etc yet some feel this is the time to celebrate? Seriously?

  3. Anonymous

    I think the comments regarding Chris Luty and Sarah Matthews are way out of line and most certainly don’t reflect on what all staff feel at all. Mr Luty set the entire business up from scratch and always wanted the very best for learners. A quick Google of BCTGs constant links to charity (such as the random acts of kindness incentives that were delivered ever-year to the most needy in the community) demonstrate the ethos he adhered too. I know personally this was something close to his heart and have seen the direct effects this generosity had on people. Whilst I obviously can’t speak on everyone’s individual experiences, I can say with absolute certain that the team I worked for thought the world of Sarah M – she was always very fair, approachable, kind, friendly and knowledgeable. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of course but feel the comments here need levelling up a bit.