ESFA allows ‘inadequate’ apprenticeship provider to keep contract

Inspectors now say the provider has made 'reasonable progress' across the board

Inspectors now say the provider has made 'reasonable progress' across the board

An engineering and manufacturing specialist training provider has kept its apprenticeship contract despite being given an ‘inadequate’ rating from Ofsted.

Salford and Trafford Engineering Group Training Association (STEGTA) was downgraded from ‘good’ to the lowest possible judgment in March largely because of safeguarding concerns and poor oversight of subcontractors.

Education and Skills Funding Agency policy rules that a provider will usually lose its apprenticeship funding agreement if it receives an ‘inadequate’ verdict from the watchdog, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

STEGTA’s report showed ‘good’ ratings in three of the five fields inspected, including quality of education and apprenticeships. Leadership and management was the only area judged ‘inadequate’, which pulled the overall grade down to the bottom rating.

The provider was only suspended from new starts following the grade four report. It has since been revisited by Ofsted, which conducted a monitoring visit last month and published a report this week which said the provider was making ‘reasonable progress’ in all areas.

John Whitby, STEGTA’s chief executive, told FE Week that the ESFA chose not to terminate contracts and the provider had been “supported through the new ESFA intervention strategy” under its accountability framework.

Under that policy, the ESFA identified the training provider as being “at risk” and placed it under intervention before a monitoring visit inspection.

STEGTA remains on the register of apprenticeship training providers and its temporary ban from recruiting new apprentices has now been lifted, Whitby said. 

The provider delivers level 2 to 4 apprenticeships in engineering, manufacturing and construction, and had 318 learners at the time of the visit. It works with 16 subcontractors.

Ofsted’s monitoring report said the company had carried out a “wholescale review of safeguarding”, which included appointing two additional safeguarding officers.

The watchdog previously said that staff training on safeguarding was “not sufficiently comprehensive”, but since the ‘inadequate’ rating the team is now “appropriately trained and qualified” for their roles. 

It also said the provider addressed the lack of staff awareness around the Prevent strategy, and had started to teach students to understand the risks around radicalisation and extremism.

On top of that, STEGTA had taken “decisive action” to address Ofsted’s concerns that the provider did not assess the quality of the subcontractor provision well enough.

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  1. Just Saying

    If the ESFA were really learner centred they would change the rule so that that new starts are suspended first whilst an investigation with the ITP of the circumstances reported in the OFSTED inspection occurs. If a serious situation which cannot be addressed by the ITP then remains, termination of ESFA contracts could occur at this point. There is no doubt that on some occasions OFSTED should be seen as a red alert but on many others an amber alert that can be addressed is more appropriate perspective. If the ESFA focussed on such remedial actions rather than an automatic contract termination it would in many cases be in the best interests of learners. The transfer of learners to other providers isn’t something that the ESFA excel at managing and is made extremely challenging by their unwillingness to provide any extra funding to the new provider approached by them.