A large training provider with nearly 5,000 learners on its books will cease its UK apprenticeship provision after a damning Ofsted inspection found that “demotivated and disengaged” apprentices were walking away from their courses.
The firm has claimed that the education watchdog’s scathing report has accelerated a decision to withdraw from the market after acknowledging that the quality of its apprenticeship training was not up to scratch.
Nearly 100 members of staff are now facing redundancy while thousands of learners will need to be accommodated elsewhere as a result.
Ofsted published an ‘inadequate’ report just before Christmas for GP Strategies Training Ltd, following a visit by inspectors in August.
Parent company Learning Technologies Group (LTG), which bought the business around a year ago, issued a London Stock Exchange update two days before Ofsted’s report was published saying that it intended to close its UK apprenticeship business in early 2023.
An LTG spokesperson said the decision over the operation, which was anticipated to generate around £9 million in revenue in 2022 from its Education and Skills Funding Agency-funded apprenticeships, was because “the nature of the customer relationships and quality of the offering in the business do not match the high standards elsewhere in GP Strategies and the group, especially following a negative Ofsted report in late 2022”.
It leaves around 4,700 apprentices on programmes who need to be transferred, while GP Strategies also confirmed that 95 jobs are at risk of redundancy.
GP Strategies Training Ltd has been delivering training since 1997 with centres in Stockport, Blackpool, Halifax, London and Bodmin. In 2017 it was selected by the Crown Commercial Service to provide apprenticeship training for the civil service.
At the time of its inspection, it had around 2,700 apprentices in adult care, 1,300 on childcare and education apprenticeships, 700 business and management apprentices and 166 adults on short online courses in healthcare and business.
Inspectors said that almost half of the apprentices had not completed their course within the planned timeframe, with some having missed opportunities for promotion or further employment as a result. Others had been unable to complete mandatory regulations they need for work.
The report said that “leaders maintain that the impact of Covid-19 was to blame for delays” but “leaders’ ineffective plans to enable apprentices to catch up have impeded these apprentices’ career opportunities”.
Inspectors reported that apprentices became “demotivated and disengaged” due to the high turnover of skills coaches, adding that “leaders do not know how many apprentices remain in learning”, and “too many apprentices contacted during the inspection stated that they have left the apprenticeship, are no longer in the sector or are on apprenticeships at other training providers”.
Elsewhere, those on adult learning programmes “lose interest early in the course” because of limited online materials and find the online learning platform “too difficult to navigate”.
Ofsted said that, while the programmes met the needs of national and local employers, leaders had “failed to provide a high-quality curriculum” that met the needs of all apprentices and adult learners.
Furthermore, inspectors said that “in many cases, apprenticeships do not attend taught sessions or have frequent enough contact with their skills coaches” and found that “leaders do not plan the functional skills English and mathematics curriculum effectively”.
In April 2021, the firm was criticised by Ofsted for serious safeguarding failures after concerns were raised by whistleblowers.
That was focused on its early years apprenticeships and found that leaders did not know if apprentices who worked with young children had completed their DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks or in how many places they were employed.
A follow-up monitoring report in July that year said the firm was making reasonable progress to address safeguarding requirements and in its latest inspection Ofsted said that safeguarding arrangements were now effective.
The provider had not had a full inspection for more than a decade, with the last in July 2012, but received a ‘good’ rating during a 2016 short inspection and had been subject to the two monitoring visits in 2021.