FE loans training provider goes bust after damning Ofsted inspection

The ESFA immediately terminated the provider's funding contract

The ESFA immediately terminated the provider's funding contract

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A loans-only training provider that quickly trebled its learner numbers has ceased trading after Ofsted published a scathing ‘inadequate’ report.   

The Education and Skills Funding Agency told FE Week its £750,000 advance learner loan facility with Focus Training Limited was terminated on January 27, 2022.   

The Bolton-based firm, which has been running health and fitness courses since the year 2000, has now gone insolvent. More than 550 learners and 20 staff have been affected.   

Ofsted inspected the provider, which delivered most training online and via phone calls, in late November and published a damning grade four report on Wednesday.   

The report said the quality of training had “deteriorated” since Focus Training’s previous full inspection in 2018.   

Inspectors found that since then, leaders have more than trebled the number of learners enrolled on courses but have not increased the number of staff accordingly. “Consequently, learners wait too long to be contacted by tutors, which delays their learning,” the report said. Some learners wait several months for feedback on their work.   

Ofsted reported that leaders’ aspirations for the most able learners were “too low”, finding that those with prior experience in the fitness industry completed the same programme as learners with no experience.   

Learners with experience subsequently became “demotivated” and did not learn substantial new knowledge and skills.   

Leaders were also criticised for not promoting an “ambitious culture”, with Ofsted finding that just over half of learners were beyond their planned end-date.   

The watchdog deemed safeguarding at Focus Training to be ineffective. The provider did not obtain or record staff recruitment references appropriately and did not always check the identification of new employees.   

Leaders also failed to “sufficiently risk assess in-person training venues”. Venues had not been assessed for safety for over two years, despite practical training resuming six months ago.   

The ESFA said all affected learners are being sought alternative training providers to complete their learning. 

Focus Training’s managing director, Bob Ellis, did not respond to requests for comment. 

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