An HR specialist firm has contested an Ofsted’ ‘inadequate’ report for its apprenticeship provision after inspectors found unmonitored vetting checks and other unsafe recruitment practices.
Absolute HR Solutions Ltd, which trades as Absolute Works, was handed the bottom rating in an inspection report published today, dropping from ‘requires improvement’ it received at its last full inspection in January 2020.
The firm, which became an approved apprenticeship provider in May 2017 but has operated as an outsourced human resources (HR) consultancy since 2011, provides training to around 20 apprentices in business administration, team leader supervision and customer service.
Inspectors claimed the provider’s safeguarding arrangements were not effective, explaining that “leaders do not follow their own policies on safeguarding and managing safer recruitment”.
“The currency of staff disclosures and vetting checks is not closely or routinely monitored to ensure that all staff have the required clearances in place prior to working with apprentices, a minority of whom are under 19,” today’s report said.
It added that governance is “not effective”, as arrangements did not include members appropriately qualified and experienced to challenge leaders on safeguarding and quality of education.
Ofsted inspectors also said quality assurance was “not fit for purpose” and trainers did not update their teaching practices or vocational knowledge in their sector regularly.
The report found that not all learners knew of opportunities available to them after their apprenticeship, and while an impartial careers guidance plan had been implemented by leaders it was too soon to see the impact of that.
While most learners achieve their apprenticeship, “too little of the development of new knowledge, skills and behaviours that apprentices have undertaken throughout their apprenticeship is because of the teaching they have received, and is more closely linked to the development that apprentices have received from their employer,” the report said.
In addition, some learners fell behind in their learning because they did not get their full off-the-job training entitlement, while teachers did not ensure apprentices developed significant new knowledge, skills and behaviours.
It said that often new topics were introduced in short online sessions with learners expected to carry out research and complete self-study activities after.
Despite that, the report said that apprentices did complete work to the required standard, the curriculum was logically ordered and leaders linked with local businesses to develop their curriculum plans.
It praised the relationships trainers and apprentices developed and the motivation of business administration apprentices.
Joy May, founder and chief executive, said the organisation has formally challenged Ofsted’s rating.
“We are hugely disappointed with the judgment and do not recognise some of the comments as representative of our apprenticeship provision,” May said.
“We became a provider in 2017 and all of our apprentices except one have passed their apprenticeship, many with distinctions. We are pleased to have helped apprentices on their career journey.
“We have received excellent feedback from employers and apprentices since the commencement of our apprenticeship provision.”
May confirmed the organisation was currently in discussion with the Education and Skills Funding Agency, whose guidance states that funding is pulled for providers which score an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating.