‘Inadequate’ care provider accuses Ofsted of ‘overlooking’ sector crisis

Inspectors say too many apprentices miss their planned end date as they cover extra shifts instead of training

Inspectors say too many apprentices miss their planned end date as they cover extra shifts instead of training

19 Apr 2024, 11:57

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A care training provider has been graded ‘inadequate’ after Ofsted found apprentices being forced to work additional shifts instead of attending their training.

But the firm has hit out at the watchdog, accusing inspectors of “totally overlooking” the crisis the care sector is in. 

Ofsted found that many of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne-based ACT Education’s 236 apprentices had “substantially” passed the planned end date of their programme during a visit in January this year.

They said apprentices were “frequently required” to cover additional shifts instead of attending training and leaders had insufficient oversight of whether they had catch-up sessions. 

ACT Education was downgraded from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘inadequate’ in all areas except personal development, in a report published on Thursday.

Duty of care took priority over studies

The provider’s director Neil Wray hit back at Ofsted’s report, which echoes similar criticism placed on other care providers judged ‘inadequate’ since the pandemic and led to several failed legal challenges.

Wray told FE Week: “We are aware that there are other care training providers that have recently been rated as inadequate that have the exact same sector-specific issues that we do.

“We did lodge a complaint against the inspection, listing numerous contradictions and factual inaccuracies, which was obviously not upheld. As a mental health training provider, we found the attitude and conduct of the lead inspector to be very poor. The entire inspection was a very unpleasant process.”

He said learners usually miss their planned end date because “duty of care for vulnerable people” and staff shortages mean they need to cover shifts.

Wray claimed that if this happens learners receive additional training “at our own personal cost”. 

ACT Education is owned and run from the same office by New Beginnings, a company providing home care services to adults with learning disabilities and autism which is rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission.

Overall, the companies declared a profit of just under £1 million after tax on a turnover of about £13 million. 

Wray told FE Week “less than 10 per cent” of ACT Education’s apprentices are employed at New Beginnings.

Inspectors criticise low expectations

Ofsted said apprentices make “slow progress” at ACT Education due to a lack of off-the-job training, which amounts to “one or two hours” each month. 

They added that trainers did not set apprentices high expectations and impeded progress by failing to give deadlines for completing assignments. 

Often, apprentices and employers did not attend progress review meetings, resulting in “little joint planning” for training opportunities. 

They said ACT Education had also been “too slow” to address concerns about English and maths functional skills training at an inspection in September 2022. 

Trainers did not set apprentices high expectations and impeded progress by failing to give deadlines for completing assignments, they added. 

Other concerns included ineffective careers information and insufficient personal development training. 

Although Ofsted praised tutors’ knowledge and experience, they said managers had been “too slow” to recruit suitably qualified staff. 

Wray said the inspectors’ criticisms “did not reflect the full picture”.

The company now faces seeing its contract with the Department for Education terminated, in line with its policy for independent training providers who receive an ‘inadequate’ rating. 

However, Wray said: “We are continuing to offer apprenticeships as we have received no instruction otherwise.” 

He added that the training provider will focus on improving ahead of an Ofsted monitoring visit due in six months.

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One comment

  1. Albert Wright

    I wonder how many public sector training providers have had training contracts ended / suspended, compared to similar rated independent providers?

    I would also love an incoming Labour Government to commit to creating a level playing field between the public and independent / charitable sector providers by making adjustment to delivery payment levels to reflect the fact that occupancy and equipment costs for independent providers are not paid by taxpayers, as they are for the public sector operators.