Apprenticeships, Ofsted, Training Providers

Justice: Provider overturns published grade 4 Ofsted report after ‘arduous’ battle

Extraordinary saga ends in grade 2 for apprenticeship firm

Extraordinary saga ends in grade 2 for apprenticeship firm

A training provider has overturned an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted judgment following an extraordinary decision by the watchdog to publish – and then unpublish – the damaging verdict.

UK Training & Development Limited (UKTD) has now remarkably been rated as ‘good’ following a reinspection just months after the provider was dealt the lowest possible grade.

The inspection saga shines a light on Ofsted’s already under-fire complaints process and sets a precedent for appeals against grade four results, an outcome which usually results in contract termination from the Education and Skills Funding Agency for private training providers.

UKTD’s managing director, Theresa Wisniewski (pictured), told FE Week she was “delighted” with the outcome after a “long and arduous battle”.

“These events have come at cost both financially and personally to me, both of which there is no recompense for, however, the fight for justice is one that had to be made,” she said.

‘Substantive evidence’ forced reinspection

UKTD, based in Hemel Hampstead, was originally inspected in July 2022 and following an unsuccessful appeal, Ofsted published an ‘inadequate’ report in October.

But UKTD continued to appeal the judgment with legal advice from Duncan Lewis Solicitors, arguing that it was a “flawed and inaccurate inspection” and was successful in securing a rare reinspection, which led to Ofsted removing the grade four report from its website in December.

A completely different and smaller inspection team was sent back to UKTD in April and resulted in ‘good’ judgments across the board.

The provider’s main complaint when the grade four report was published was that inspectors had failed to consider the impact of Covid-19 on the hairdressing industry that it delivers apprenticeships to.

Several other providers, mainly in the hospitality, service and care sectors, have issued similar complaints over the past year after receiving ‘inadequate’ Ofsted judgments – and in some cases have tried and failed to overturn the judgments in the High Court.

Wisniewski said she was able to land a reinspection due to “perseverance and substantive evidence that the previous inspection outcome was wrong”, but refused to say exactly what new evidence was submitted.

She added: “The inspection by comparison in April was challenging but fair and as a result we were able to showcase our provision effectively and achieve the right outcome for UKTD.

“Unfortunately, many providers have suffered from an Ofsted culture and regime that in my view has failed to recognise and properly understand the intricacy and pressures in the delivery of work-based apprenticeships in what has been a very difficult few years.

“The education inspection framework has been used in some cases by inspectors to view providers without context, failing to adequately take into account sector issues, the range of employers we work with, and other mitigating circumstance such as a pandemic and economic crisis.

“As a training provider and a business, we also experienced the impact of Covid and survived whilst still providing good quality training, support and outcomes for our learners and employers. This has not been recognised adequately in some inspections and in particular those sectors that have been hit hard, such as hairdressing. Additionally, not every provider delivers the same model, and this can bring different challenges, but this does not mean we are not good at what we do.”

Complaints process to be reviewed

Training providers and colleges have been successful in getting their judgements upgraded prior to inspection reports being published in the past, but it is unheard of for Ofsted to remove a report after publication and decide to carry out a reinspection.

UKTD’s success comes shortly after Ofsted’s senior leaders admitted their complaints policy “is not working” and will be reviewed.

Officials have been told to make the process more human and less bureaucratic, FE Week understands, following backlash from the education sector.

Paul Warner, director of strategy and business development at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said his organisation is “pleased that Ofsted are taking on board criticisms of the appeals process” which will “help to ensure continuing improvements in the inspection process even more through further co-operation with the sector”.

The feedback in UKTD’s ‘good’ report is unrecognisable to the ‘inadequate’ report published just months ago.

The grade four report claimed that leaders had “not rectified many of the weaknesses identified at previous Ofsted inspections”, accused leaders of lacking “ambition” for apprentices who allegedly often struggled to meet the demands of work and study because they “do not regularly receive their entitlement to time away from work”.

It also claimed that apprentices were “frustrated” with the training and assessment provided.

But the grade two report states that leaders “have taken effective action to improve the quality of education”.

Apprentices now have “very positive attitudes to their training”, “quickly gain highly relevant and up-to-date practical hairdressing and barbering skills”, and benefit from tutors who “collaborate closely with employers to link the practical teaching in salons to the theory sessions that tutors teach”.

Wisniewski said the report now “accurately and reflects our provision fairly”, adding that the reinspection was conducted by an Ofsted team that “had the right skills, competencies, and a willingness to fully understand our provision and the issues during and after Covid”.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “We have nothing further to add to the published inspection report.”

This isn’t the first time UKTD has battled ‘inadequate’ Ofsted grades. The provider was given the judgement twice in 2017.

The two inspections were based on safeguarding failings. It is not clear why the Education and Skills Funding Agency did not terminate the provider’s contracts following the previous grade four judgements, as is usual practice for independent training providers.

The agency can, however, decide not to terminate contracts in exceptional circumstances.

UKTD, which was set up in 1998, was also judged ‘inadequate’ in 2006 by the Adult Learning Inspectorate – Ofsted’s predecessor.

The ESFA declined to comment.

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  1. Steve

    Good fight and well deserved outcome. How about other training providers who are in the same boar but has their contracts terminated by the ESFA? Will they be given another opportunity?

  2. Really pleased that the provider has managed to overturn an ‘inadequate’ grade to ‘good’. However, what about all the other providers who have lost ESFA contracts due to ‘inadequate’ grades where covid was not taken into consideration. The care sector in particular has been badly affected these last few years due to covid but let’s throw those providers down the waste disposal shute! I am completely baffled as this particular provider UKTD have been graded ‘inadequate’ on 4 separate occasions going back to 2006 but by magic, have produced some ‘substantive evidence’ to support a reinspection and overturn the grade to good yet they refuse to disclose what this evidence was. Why is this evidence not being disclosed? Do others not need to learn from this? Absolutely flummoxed!!