A global food and facilities company that also delivers apprenticeships to UK prison officers is facing a suspension on new starts after Ofsted found poor quality training.
Sodexo Ltd, which operates five prisons in the UK, received two ‘insufficient’ and one ‘reasonable’ progress judgements from the education watchdog in a new provider monitoring report published today following a visit in November.
According to the report, the firm had 80 apprentices on the level 3 custody and detention officer programme at the time of inspection – 42 based at HMP Bronzefield and 38 at HMP Northumberland.
The report said that the governing board didn’t challenge the leadership team enough, or have enough oversight of safeguarding.
Inspectors found that “too many learners do not pass vital examinations quickly enough to achieve their qualifications and to enable them to progress to end point assessment” because leaders didn’t intervene quickly enough to help learners when the fell behind.
In addition, feedback from learning coaches did not help apprentices improve the quality of their work quickly enough.
While inspectors noted that the curriculum was in logical order, and initial training prepared them to work supervised in a prison within nine weeks, they found that leaders and managers “do not ensure that apprentices benefit from an assessment of their work or useful feedback on how to develop their skills over time”.
It reported that coaches did not correct spelling and punctuation mistakes in learners’ work and made spelling and punctuation errors in their own feedback on apprentices’ work.
The report continued that line managers were not aware of their apprentice’s progress because they did not always attend progress reviews, and apprentices didn’t receive training to improve their maths or English because the firm had been “too slow” to recruit staff for functional skills.
Apprentices were not prepared well enough for EPA, the report added.
Safeguarding arrangements were given a ‘reasonable progress’ judgement.
The government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency typically places a temporary ban on apprentice recruitment at new providers that receive at least one ‘insufficient progress’ judgement in a new provider monitoring visit. The suspension is lifted if the provider achieves at least a ‘requires improvement’ rating when Ofsted conducts a full inspection.
A Sodexo spokesperson said the firm took on board the feedback from inspectors and was pleased with its safeguarding feedback.
“However, we also acknowledge that we have areas of improvement and have been working prior to and since the inspection to develop and implement an action plan which builds on progress to date and addresses any areas of opportunity to be strengthened,” the spokesperson said.
They stressed that governance has “already been strengthened at all levels,” and had included a new delivery lead. In addition it has partnered with a specialist provider for maths and English functional skills to improve that provision, the firm said.
Sodexo operates in 50 countries with 400,000 employees, and joined the register of apprenticeship training providers (RoATP) in January 2018. However, it spent a few years as a subcontractor before starting its own apprenticeship training in September 2021 despite being on RoATP.
It had been the subcontractor to PTS Training Academy’s level 3 custody and detention officer apprenticeship prior to September 2021.
In July 2021, Sodexo said that the subcontracting arrangement provided a “low risk stepping stone” to gather knowledge and experience of the standard, as well as get to know quality assurance requirements and the processes for the ESFA, before it embarked on its own apprenticeship provision.
Sodexo’s contract with PTS was terminated for new starters in September 2019. FE Week later revealed that PTS had its own ESFA contract terminated after the agency found hundreds of apprentices were unemployed.