Government secretly grading all colleges and training providers

Exclusive


UPDATE: It has been brought to our attention that there were inaccuracies in the full PAT list previously published, which FE Week downloaded from the DFE website. Whilst we investigate we have removed the link to this data. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. The data was sent to the DfE in advance of publishing for their reference. 

More than half of providers have been secretly rated by the Education and Skills Funding Agency as posing a potential risk, FE Week can exclusively reveal.

They are surreptitiously marked using a four-grade system in the ESFA’s ‘profile and assessment’ software tool, which FE Week has discovered listed 563 (55 per cent) of 1,025 private training providers, colleges and councils with agency contracts as either being watched closely by officials or receiving formal intervention, as of January 2017.

The Department for Education has refused to comment on the scheme, but sector leaders who were shown the list of providers and grades have lambasted the ESFA’s secrecy and are now calling for urgent transparency.

The four categories included in the PAT are ‘formal intervention’ (red), the most severe, ‘active engagement’ (amber), ‘close watching brief’ (light orange), and ‘standard monitoring’ (green).

If a provider is placed in the first three categories, it means the government is concerned about their performance and places them under scrutiny.

Read Editor Nick Linford’s view here

FE Week understands that a total of 73 providers were receiving formal interventions in January, with 299 in active engagement with the DfE, and 191 on the close-watching brief.

Just 462 were in the clear in category 4.

Mark Dawe, the chief executive of AELP, slammed the ESFA’s secret grading system.

“As a public body there should not be any secretive processes and this should all be transparent to all providers that they fund,” he told FE Week. “This is clearly something the AELP will need to raise with the ESFA on behalf of our members.”

David Hughes, the boss of the AoC, said it was “appropriate” for the ESFA to be assessing the financial and overall health of the providers it funds.

However, he added that it would be “good for the agency to be more transparent about what the triggers are using to move providers into and out of each category”.

He also wants further information to help “understand more how the agency uses these categories for funding decisions”.

Providers rated in category 1 of the PAT are treated like those with a notice of concern or serious breach, and face having their funding contracts terminated if they do not meet the government’s conditions for improvement.

The Department for Education would not provide FE Week with any further details about these categories, or the way they are determined and used.

“We do not comment on leaked documents,” said a spokesperson.

UPDATE: It has been brought to our attention that there were inaccuracies in the full PAT list previously published, which FE Week downloaded from the DFE website. Whilst we investigate we have removed the link to this data. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. The data was sent to the DfE in advance of publishing for their reference. 


 



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17 Comments

    • The list does appear out of date as number of providers on there that are long gone and column headers misleading as grouping inadequate and satisfactory FH together. Satisfactory FHA’s get providers on ROATP and ROTO. Also be interesting to know what they deem active engagement given that most of the providers deemed under active engagement have had zero engagement!

  1. Karen Redhead

    Statement on behalf of Derwentside College – The information contained in this leaked document is grossly incorrect. The College is currently graded as having Good financial health which continues to improve and is expected to be judged as Outstanding in 2018. We have never been in “active engagement” as the leaked document suggests.

  2. If the ESFA didn’t have some mechanism of monitoring provider risk, then a sensationalist headline would probably be raised on how they were asleep at the wheel.
    Bottom line is that providers should be in a position to rate themselves as to whether they present themselves as a risk and shouldn’t be surprised if they see themselves in this list rated poorly.
    The question for me is, is it right and responsible to publish such a list or even publish the methods used to arrive at the score. If you publish the methods then unscrupulous folk could stay just above the low water mark, short changing learners, while siphoning off eye watering salaries.

    • There is already a well established and transparent mechanism for assessing a provider’s financial health, which is the financial health score. If another internal and therefore non-transparent mechanism exists then I would personally rather know about it. I applaud FE Week in bringing this controversial matter to the attention of the sector, not least of all so that providers can check the accuracy. At a cursory glance, and echoing some of the previous comments left, I have grave doubt on the accuracy of this information as it seems to be at odds with other information that is in the public domain.

    • Dylan McTaggart

      Statement on behalf of Harrow College – The information contained in this leaked document is incorrect. The College is currently graded as having outstanding financial health. The SFA have today re-confirmed re: ‘Formal Intervention that Harrow College is NOT included in that list’.

      • Dylan McTaggart

        Statement on behalf of Harrow College – The information contained in this leaked document is incorrect. The College is currently graded as having outstanding financial health & is NOT in formal intervention.

  3. Victoria

    To me, this looks like a report from a risk assessment tool via a piece of software. I think it is reasonable to expect the ESFA to have these tools in place. The report gives half information, it may give an indication of risk but we do not know the all information that was used to generate the report and we equally do not know how the information is subsequently used. An indication of risk does not mean the ESFA have concerns.
    As providers we too have systems to monitor performance that indicate areas of potential risk in a business – but that doesn’t mean there is a problem, just helps to prioritise. The ESFA publish the providers they are concerned about via notices of concern.
    I wouldn’t be too distracted by this – there are more important things to be focusing on.

  4. John Laramy

    For each of the last three years Exeter College has had a good ‘SFA’ financial health grade and this is forecast to continue. Happy to confirm we are in no form of ‘active engagement’.

  5. There are many providers on this list that are have healthy reserves and also have received good or outstanding financial grading on the recent Roatp system. I am very doubtful of the accuracy of this list. It would be interesting to get an official comment from the Agency as there are is some chatter in the sector that this is is not from January 2017 and is in fact a few years old.

  6. Statement on behalf of Reading Borough Council – This information is inaccurate we are not aware of any current concerns from the ESFA. We can only conclude this information relates to out of date information.

  7. Seriously!
    I have no doubt the ESFA and other agencies monitor all types of providers for all sorts of reasons and in most cases, tell us about it. I do feel however that the way this article has been release is not responsible reporting. As can be seen from the comments above and by simply comparing this list to the recently published notices of concern, there is sufficient reason to doubt its accuracy in the context of the reporting.
    There is obviously data missing, column H has many examples of ” and declining FH” without any other text and key is its lack of published creation date. I can assure you our company is not under active engagement. How many employers will have looked at this list of incorrect information and made buying choices based on it. As if the sector does not have enough to worry about at the minute…