DfE being sued for millions by training provider

CCP claims the department unlawfully held back fees which led to a loss of business

CCP claims the department unlawfully held back fees which led to a loss of business

25 Feb 2022, 9:31

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A training provider that successfully defended a legal case brought against it by the government last year is now suing the Department of Education for millions of pounds in damages. 

In the previous court battle the DfE tried and failed to recover almost £200,000 of tuition fees from CCP Graduate School Limited, a provider of further education teacher training courses. 

Now, in a separate case, CCP is suing the department claiming that it unlawfully held back fees from the provider which it claims ultimately led to a loss of business – an alleged breach of contract for which CCP is seeking damages. 

“The provider was unable to continue with the successful business that was built over 20 years,” a solicitor from Saracens Solicitors, who are fighting the case on behalf of CCP, told FE Week. 

They said that staff of over 15 years were put on part-time and then made redundant. 

“Many went through depression due to not being able to continue with the organisation. The company felt it was being targeted.” 

The previous case 

Back in September 2021 the DfE tried to recover £196,862.50 of tuition fees paid to CCP, in respect of 93 students enrolled on DTLLS courses – a now defunct teacher training qualification for teaching in further education. 

In 2014 the DTLLS qualification was phased out, being replaced by the Diploma in Education and Training (“DET”). 

CCP had enrolled a number of students on its DTLLS courses in the academic year 2013/14 but registered them with the relevant awarding body, Pearson, for a DET qualification. 

The DfE claimed that as CCP was never approved for designation as a provider of DET courses, it was not entitled to be paid tuition fees in respect of students who, although taught on a DTLLS course, were registered by CCP for a DET qualification. 

However, a judge dismissed the DfE’s claim on the grounds that the students were entitled to receive funding support for the course until the course was completed or until they withdrew from the course. 

Saracens Solicitors told FE Week that the consequences of the last judgement are that other providers of this course “may want to consider whether they are in a similar position and ought to consider obtaining legal advice with a view of launching their own legal challenge against the department”. 

The solicitor said they could not comment on whether they knew of other providers in CCP’s position, and added that it would be premature to say if this would lead to a “floodgate of claims”. 

The new case brought against the DfE

Back in 2011, CCP first entered into an agreement with the DfE to teach students the DTLLS course. 

As part of this agreement, the DfE agreed to pay students’ tuition fees owed to CCP via the Student Loans Company. However, CCP claims the DfE breached this agreement by failing to pay tuition fees owed to them between August 2013 and December 2014. 

While CCP remains an active company, the business claims that the withholding of fees led to CCP becoming “moribund”. 

CCP said it has not been able to function as a training provider, and that whether it is able to be a full provider again will depend on resolution of the case. 

According to CCP, the DfE had made various enquiries with CCP, but the provider claimed no justifiable reasons have been given for holding back the money. 

The company said the initial reason was that a whistleblower had reported fraudulent behaviour by students who had registered on the SLC portal for courses run by CCP.

Because of these allegations two investigations were carried out, first by SLC and then by the Government Internal Audit Agency (GIAA). 

However, the provider said these investigations did not find any fraud or malpractice on the part of CCP. 

CCP claims that by November 2016 it had answered all legitimate concerns the DfE had and so they were obliged to make full payment of the outstanding fees – something CCP says the DfE ultimately did not do. 

The DfE told FE Week that it could not comment on legal proceedings ongoing or otherwise. 

As well as offering higher education courses (including the DTLLS) CCP previously offered 16-to-19 study programmes. 

Following an Ofsted inspection published in August 2016 into its 16-to-19 provision, CCP received an overall rating of ‘inadequate’. 

CCP told FE Week that the Ofsted inspection resulted in the termination of its government contracts for 16-to-19 study programmes. 

However, it said this was a very small contract compared to its higher education contract, and that it was only going to concentrate on higher education where they had a substantial number of students. 

The company claimed that the termination of the 16-to-19 contract did not have an impact on CCP as a business and did not contribute to it becoming moribund. 

CCP added that it had a successful QAA achievement and therefore the Ofsted rating was not relevant for their higher education funding.

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One comment

  1. David priestly

    You really have to admire the DFE. The age old ‘we do not comment on…….’ Learnt from decades of civil servants who commit unspeakable crimes and ‘laugh it off’. There is surely a trend here. Disgruntled member of staff ‘whistle blows’…..investigation carried out…..business targeted and ruined……staff breakdown and mental health sometimes resulting in self harm or worse……DFE goes quiet……threats of reprisals……legal challenge wins……cycle starts again. One less provider to count.

    Until the fundamental flaw is addressed in that the DFE cannot run a business focused education system. Nothing will change. Aside from a few gongs to keep people quiet.