A college rated ‘inadequate’ for its apprenticeship provision more than seven months ago was given special dispensation to remain on the register of apprenticeship training providers.
St Helens College (pictured) was given the lowest possible grade for apprenticeships in a report published last June, but has never been removed from the register – even though other providers with the same grade have.
In the same week that new rules were published outlining when and how providers would be removed from the register, the Department for Education admitted that the college was treated differently due to its merger with Knowsley Community College, which completed on December 12.
It explained that merged colleges are considered ungraded by Ofsted, and are eligible to apply to the register under exceptional circumstances – and it is on this basis that the college is still listed.
St Helens itself claimed it had been removed from the register, but that following the merger it had reapplied and “is registered as an approved provider.”
However, this claim is contradicted by the date the college was added to the register, which is listed as March 13, 2017.
The majority of current apprentices are making slow progress on their qualifications
Previously the agency had said it would “exercise its right to terminate contracts where a provider is not meeting the standards expected” – and that any provider with a grade four would be “removed from the register in due course”.
But under the new rules, published by the Education and Skills Funding Agency on January 30, an ‘inadequate’ provider would be given five days’ notice of their removal from the register and must not take on any new apprentices, any existing apprentices would be able to stay on only at the employers’ discretion.
“A provider with a grade four Ofsted rating is ineligible to apply to the register and it is right that a provider is removed if they are later assessed as inadequate,” a DfE spokesperson said.
Eight independent training providers along with St Helens College have been rated grade four for their apprenticeship provision since being added to the register.
Of those, six ITPs have all been removed – Community Training Services Limited, Be Totally You, Matrix Training and Development Limited, EQL Solutions Limited, Compass Group UK & Ireland and First City Training.
All six had their reports published more than three months ago.
A further two providers, London Skills and Development Network Ltd and NLT Training, were rated ‘inadequate’ in December and have yet to be removed from the register.
St Helens is the only college on the register to receive a grade four for its apprenticeship provision – and the only provider to remain on the register beyond the standard three-month contract termination period.
The college would not reveal whether it had taken on any new starts since the Ofsted report was published in mid-June.
But it had a non-levy allocation of £315,928 between May to December, according to the ESFA.
And the college has continued to promote its apprenticeships provision on its website, claiming that “we have an excellent reputation for delivering high-quality apprenticeships and traineeships across all sectors”.
Last year’s Ofsted inspection, carried out between April 24 and 27, was heavily critical of St Helens’ apprenticeship provision.
“The majority of current apprentices are making slow progress on their qualifications; just under half of current apprentices have completed their qualification within their planned timescales,” the report, published on June 16, stated.
But according to minutes from a board meeting on July 10, the college’s overall and timely achievement rates were both above the national average – and that it “anticipates that the picture will continue to improve”.