College pleads for lifting of apprenticeship ban

'We have been working to remove the suspension'

'We have been working to remove the suspension'

A college is pleading with the government to lift its long-lasting ban on recruiting apprentices, saying the sanction does not reflect recent performance.

Stanmore College, rated ‘good’ by Ofsted, has been suspended from taking on new apprentices since May 2020 but the penalty only appeared on the register of apprenticeship training providers this term.

A spokesperson told FE Week the restriction was imposed due to a “legacy” issue for a “minimal” number of apprentices in 2017/18 who did not complete their programme “due to changing roles or leaving their employer”.

They refused to further explain why this issue led to a ban or say whether this brought the college below the government’s minimum standard. Qualification achievement rate tables published by the Education and Skills Funding Agency have excluded Stanmore since 2017.

The college claims their achievement rates have improved, reaching 72 per cent in 2020/21, and warned it is now being hindered from serving its local employers.

Stanmore is one of 33 apprenticeship providers currently suspending from taking on new apprentices.

Providers are typically only suspended from recruitment following an ‘inadequate’ full Ofsted inspection or ‘insufficient’ new provider monitoring visit.

Two other providers are currently banned from taking on new apprentices despite never receiving a low judgment from the education watchdog: Luton International College Ltd, and Nebula Consultancy Services Ltd. Both providers did not respond to requests for comment about their suspension at the time of going to press.

The ESFA said it is unable to comment on the specific circumstances of an individual case.

Stanmore College received its grade two from Ofsted in 2017, the report for which praised its apprenticeship programme. At the time the college was teaching 1,800 students, 33 of which were apprentices.

Its spokesperson said the majority of their 2017/18 apprentices who either switched roles or left their employer “did successfully complete their apprenticeship programme during the following year.

“Stanmore College has been actively working with the ESFA colleagues to remove the suspension as it does not reflect recent achievement levels for apprenticeships,” they added.

“An imminent return to delivery of a full apprenticeship programme is anticipated, in order for the college to deliver the skills and knowledge that employers require in the region.”

The spokesperson said its finances have not been impacted in “any way”. The college’s latest accounts show a £157,000 surplus in 2019/20 and reserves of £7.5 million.

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