Chamber-owned provider rated ‘inadequate’ for not matching curriculum to local skills needs

It comes as chambers of commerce across England are piloting approaches to match skills provision to local needs

It comes as chambers of commerce across England are piloting approaches to match skills provision to local needs



A chamber of commerce-owned training provider has been branded ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted for not using local skills information to plan its curriculum. 

Chamber Training (Humber), an independent provider owned by the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Shipping, now faces a ban on new starts following today’s report

However, the provider has criticised the inspectorate for “not completing the inspection in full,” and also protested how the new inspection handbook has been introduced. 

It had 129 apprentices on nine programmes focused on hairdressing, adult care, refrigeration, and business between levels 2 and 3 at the time of the inspection. There were also 28 adult learners on a level 3 adult care diploma. 

Provider caught out for teaching apprentices to perm hair

Inspectors found the provider’s leaders and managers “do not use information about local skills needs adequately in order to plan a curriculum for learners and apprentices that is relevant to the needs of their employers”.  

This they saw when hairdressing apprentices were learning how to perm hair, a technique which is “no longer in demand,” rather than how to apply hair extensions, “a skill needed in local salons”. 

That local skills information is not being used by Chamber Training to inform provision is particularly damning, as the government is lining up local chambers of commerce to run local skills improvement plans in the future. 

Eight chambers are currently working as LSIP trailblazers, putting together plans which aim to align the courses on offer in their area with local employers’ needs. 

Having a skills system led by employers, through employer representative bodies such as chambers, is something ministers have insisted on for the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, which will put LSIPs into law. 

Speaking during a Commons debate on the bill last month, skills minister Alex Burghart told MPs: “We have been clear that we want to have an approach that is completely employer-led.” 

Ofsted criticises provider for not ensuring off-the-job training time

Ofsted also found safeguarding arrangements at Chamber Training were not effective, with inspectors reporting: “Too few learners and apprentices understand well enough the local risks that they might come across, such as knife crime.” 

Staff were also expecting too little of apprentices’ compliance with industry working practices, as storage areas in refrigeration workshops were “cluttered” because “apprentices leave crisp packets and soft drinks bottles in their workspaces”. 

Leaders also do not carry out enough checks to make sure apprenticeship programmes meet funding requirements and do not work “well enough” with employers to ensure they understand they need to provide apprentices with ringfenced time away from work to complete training. 

“As a result, too many apprentices do not receive the off-the-job training to which they are entitled.” 

Inspectors did say tutors create a “respectful” atmosphere and the chamber’s leaders establish “meaningful” relationships with the local enterprise partnership and employers. 

The report also approved of how tutors with “significant” industrial experience are recruited. 

Chamber criticises cut in inspection duration

Chamber Training was found to have made ‘reasonable progress’ in all areas of a monitoring visit in 2019

Ofsted also made an interim visit to the provider in November 2020, which Chamber Training said, “would have been a good time for Ofsted to mention any concerns it had.  

“There were none, and Chamber Training therefore felt encouraged to continue on the path of making progress.” 

In a statement, the provider said it “responded” to the report, which Ofsted “refused to change”. 

Its curriculum is “designed and delivered” to help businesses develop the skills they need and their employers are “shocked by the report”. 

They and learners “have been complimentary about the standard of training and the support they receive,” the statement added. 

The provider insists it has made “significant” progress in identified areas and the ESFA is “satisfied with our safeguarding arrangements and have allowed us to continue training”. 

Despite approaching the inspection with “confidence,” Chamber Training complained Ofsted was “unable” to train their staff in the new inspection handbook, introduced last year, until November. 

Yet, the provider protested, inspectors “still questioned us on the content when they conducted our inspection in October”. 

Chamber Training also took issue with how the inspection process took three days, instead of the four or five it did at the last inspection. 

“It is our view that Ofsted would have formed a different view of our services had they completed the inspection in full.  

“Ofsted did not make the most of the opportunities to do that and this was not the right time to reduce the duration of an inspection from four or five days to three days.” 



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5 Comments

  1. Richard Moore

    This is a very confusing report to read as you don’t differentiate between the different inspection events when talking about the provider’s feedback on the inspection process. It would also have helped to clarify what type of inspection they had? If it was a full one, they will be facing a far greater problem than just being suspended from recruiting any more learners! Please can we make reports like this more precise. Thank you!

  2. Is it April 1st?

    Perms versus hair extensions…

    A tip for providers operating in the fashion industry. If you teach using the wrong coloured fabric you might get an ‘unsatisfactory’. But fear not, ask Ofsted to reconsider when that colour is back in fashion and you’ll get an outstanding!

  3. Phil Hatton

    The worry about this inspection is that although the provider had mainly learners undertaking hairdressing training the team carrying out the inspection appeared to lack a member with vocational expertise. A year after their 2018 ‘requires improvement’ inspection they got reasonable progress on all the areas judgements were made on, including all the safeguarding areas that they went down on in this inspection. So the Ofsted monitoring tool certainly sounded no warning bells to the provider that they were not on course. The ‘perming vs extensions’ comment sounds very much like on made to look like the inspectors understood what the apprentices were studying, while the text of the report is heavily around the refrigeration apprentices. Then the important part of the report ‘What does the provider need to do to improve?’ is not sufficiently prioritised after the first safeguarding bullet on the quality of education being delivered. There is a clear Ofsted checklist on areas such as careers advice and guidance that most ITPs are not doing well enough on, rather than the crucial areas for apprenticeships such as reviews and the management of the relationship with employers in delivering apprenticeships. It would be good if Ofsted updated the training of inspectors while there is an inspection lull and gave thought to having at least one vocational expert to match what is being delivered when selecting inspection teams.

  4. The report, can be confusing to read and why the fixations is not on learning but perming, would be so wrong, Educating apprentices on hairdressing is a high verity of skills and knowledge especially understanding the science behind it and the differentiator between traditional and modern.
    Perms of today’s industry, is that one size fits all approach no longer exists from the 70’s, If you have shorter or mid-length hair and are looking for ways to add wavy or curly length and volume, clip in hair extensions are a great alternative between your perm, all of the above is a key part of understanding key wording for example perms can be either acid or alkaline. the hair structure goes through three stages to take on its new shape. It’s helpful to have an understanding of the different stages.
    Preparing Apprentices for EPA ether gives you a competitive advantage – supercharging your career, boosting salon profitability or improving results for todays apprentice.

    If the Salon owner, employers manager who has been interviewed by Ofsted, and they have raised concerns that the curriculum programmes are not suitable, wouldn’t you have not discussed and agreed at sign up?

    Most management systems (e-portfolios) accommodate the 3 pathways listed within the 2 Professional Standard. We cannot forget the standards are developed and based on learner and employer needs and has been designed by employers for learners wishing to gain an apprenticeship within the Hair Professional arena.

    Lever 2 Hair-All apprentices will complete the core skills and knowledge and will choose the occupational option route (remember optional is Not part of the EPA assessment )
    1: Perming hair,
    2:Hair relaxing treatments and techniques,
    3:Hair extension.

    Level 2 NVQ Diploma is a work based qualification that is designed to ensure the Apprentice is salon ready once they complete their qualification .
    Part of the NVQ Diploma ( Apprentices have to achieve the one optional unit which is the hair extension service) so they have to do it anyway.
    introducing different techniques with in Hairdressing industry, it allows the apprentices to be stretch and challenged through their learning journey.
    Not to forget the On the-job experience in a salon environment where they gain knowledge and skills in several core areas and the 20% off-the-job learning which will include theory delivery, shadowing, mentoring and coaching at work place or the training sites.

  5. Wow, I wasn’t aware that Ofsted was now the arbiter of all things that are in fashion.
    A quick Google on the subject would suggest that actually perms are back….what a a load of subjective nonsense