A West Midlands independent training provider specialising in the care sector leadership apprenticeships has been branded ‘inadequate’ after Ofsted identified “systemic weaknesses” in its training delivery.
In its first full Ofsted inspection, Stourbridge-based Phemagrace Ltd was handed the lowest rating in a report published today, following an inspection in June. It received ‘inadequate’ judgements for quality of education, leadership and management, personal development and apprenticeships, but scored ‘good’ for behaviour and attitudes.
The firm provided training to 55 apprentices at the time of the inspection, mainly in the care sector, but has no employees other than a single director, Morenikeji Babatunde Dawud, according to its latest annual report for the year to 31 December 2021.
Phemagrace’s apprentices are all on level three and level five courses, in adult care leadership, business administration, and team leader standards.
Inspectors said the provider had not acted on comments they had made in its previous monitoring visit report from last November when they found poor teaching quality, gaps in the provider’s systems so that its courses could not be improved, and problems with its careers advice.
Phemagrace is currently suspended from taking on new apprentices according to the apprenticeship providers and assessment register (APAR). Under the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s funding rules, an ‘inadequate’ judgement from Ofsted usually results in a suspension from the apprenticeship providers and assessment register (APAR) and contract termination.
Neither Dawud, nor a representative from Phemagrace was contactable at the time of publication.
Inspectors highlighted a lack of quality assurance procedures meaning the provider was unable to identify or fix “the systemic weaknesses in their apprenticeships.”
“As a result, the quality of education has not improved,” the report added.
Curriculums at the provider are also “not sufficiently well planned to ensure that [learners] build substantial new knowledge, skills and behaviours over time”. Inspectors identified a failure to “routinely” develop English and mathematics skills during apprenticeships, meaning apprentices are not “well prepared” for their next steps.
There is also not enough emphasis on learner feedback at the provider so apprentices do not know how to improve their work as they move through their studies. Apprentices are also often not prepared for their end-point assessments.
‘Too few’ completions
That all means “too few apprentices” successfully complete their apprenticeships – with many “significantly behind” the planned end date of their apprenticeships.
Back in 2020-21 the provider recorded 40 new apprenticeship starts, mostly on the level 3 team leader or supervisor standard, with an additional three on the level 5 children, young people and families manager apprenticeship.
In 2021-22, the business flipped to deliver largely higher level apprenticeships, with the better funded level 5 leader in adult care standard making up the bulk of its starts that year.
In the first three quarters of this year, it has started 29 apprentices on the level 5 leader in adult care standard.
In each year the number of apprentices achieving their apprenticeship has been too low to record an achievement rate.
Ofsted did praise the provider on its “effective” safeguarding arrangements, and noted that apprentices speak “positively of what they have learned”. But inspectors found “too few apprentices” could say what exactly they had learned on their apprenticeship, or how what they had learned would help them in the workplace.
The quality of teaching also suffers as the provider does not have a strategy to improve the skills of assessors. Despite commissioning an external organisation to address those concerns, the provider has not acted on its recommendations. Inspectors said that resulted in a “poor” standard of teaching and assessment.
Ofsted’s report also detailed a lack of “useful, impartial careers advice”, and a lack of direction on where apprentices could progress to following their studies.
Phemagrace is too small to publish full business accounts, and has not yet published micro-business accounts for 2022. But in its accounts for 2021, it reported debts of nearly £50,000, in comparison to just £723 the year prior. Their sole director, Dawud, also is a director at Phemacare, a charity providing personal in-home care.
It is not registered on Ofsted, but got a ‘requires improvement’ rating from the Care Quality Commission in its latest report from July 2021.
Phemagrace and Phemacare were both approached for comment.