ESFA overhaul of their register of apprenticeship training providers is more urgent than ever

19 Oct 2018, 10:30

It all seemed so sensible when the ESFA first announced at the FE Week Annual Apprenticeship Conference in March 2016 that they would be launching a Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP).

Employers would be able to choose from a list of “high-quality” providers and everyone would have confidence that the annual £2bn of public money would be well spent in England.

Following an application process, the sector was left in shock in March 2017 to discover the ESFA’s claim of “top-quality” included the inclusion on RoATP of many newly incorporated companies with no trading history.

These companies on RoAPT, many still with no apprenticeship delivery, can then be bought for around £50,000 as a way to gain access to public funding.

But, the problem is not so much with the ability to buy and sell companies on a government register.

The problem was created when the ESFA let companies onto the register with no trading history and no filed accounts.

 It was particularly easy to get on without a trading history because the ESFA was having to judge plans instead of track record, when it came to capacity, quality and finances.

In fact, perverse as it may sound, it would have been easier for the owners of an established provider with poor quality or financial issues to incorporate a new company and apply based on a fictional plan.

The ESFA has belatedly realised their RoAPT application process was deeply flawed, and the register has been closed to new applicants for a full year now.

But, as we expose this week, the longer it is closed the more value those on it may be able extract in a sale.

 So the ESFA must prioritise a complete overhaul of the register, urgently, starting with a reapplication process for everyone that has not had a satisfactory visit from Ofsted in the last five years – which will include those that have not started any apprentices since May 2017.

Then the new application process needs to set the capacity, quality and finances bar far higher, with a process of due diligence commensurate with the ‘top quality’ claims.

This would put an end to the madness of someone simply setting up a company in name alone, so as to sell access to a government approved register.

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  1. Christine Tilley

    Exactly what we have been complaining about since the farcical ITT
    If you employed a professional tender writer to portray fabulous fiction of intention you passed
    If however you had been doing it for years with way above national averages of achievement and great ofsted inspections this was never taken into account as was neither your financial situation or your authenticity
    Very very poor negligent application process and totally agree with removing providers as per your suggestion
    Not often we agree nick but totally with you on this one
    Christine Tilley
    Yorkshire College of Beauty

  2. Patrick Tucker

    To me this will halt providers wanting to deliver quality Apprenticeships (especially – Companies will have to have traded for 12 months at least in order to be eligible for application and provide a full set of accounts to be on the register.).

    My question is ‘traded as what’?

    Also, a cap on how much a provider can earn? That does not stamp out poor quality, it only puts the sector into an approach where providers will not want to be in the business.

    Furthermore, what is wrong in selling a business?

    Also, quality should be monitored throughout, and I don’t just mean Ofsted or to get through the RoATP. There is a lack of understanding of true quality in the sector.

    As an example to some of this – if 3 or 4 Directors from 3 or 4 different organisations get together to form a NewCo and these Directors all champion / promote quality then the NewCo won’t have a trading history or filed accounts, but the NewCo will have a high demand on quality and will focus on LEP priority to close the skills gap but, they won’t get on the register due to the demands that you are suggesting and/or the ESFA are putting in place.