Ofsted has criticised a leadership and management provider that delivers training mostly online for allegedly recruiting apprentices without “integrity”.
Libra Europe Consulting Limited (Libra) was judged ‘inadequate’ by the education watchdog in its first full inspection report that was published yesterday. The provider, which only started delivering apprenticeships in 2019, now faces having its funding contract terminated by the government.
Ofsted reported that “too many” of the company’s 155 apprentices are “not motivated to complete the work that coaches set” and a “substantially high proportion” leave their programme early.
Inspectors found that too often apprentices’ job roles “do not align with the requirements of the apprenticeship” they are recruited into, which are mainly leadership and management programmes from levels 2 to 5.
Ofsted warned: “These apprentices are unable to produce the correct level and standard of work that is required of the apprenticeship.”
The inspectorate also found that Libra’s leaders and managers continued to recruit apprentices throughout the pandemic “despite knowing that many employers were unable to release apprentices to complete their training”.
Ofsted has placed a much bigger focus on the “integrity” of learner recruitment since the introduction of its education and inspection framework in 2019.
Bob Heward, managing partner at Libra, said his company “wholeheartedly disagreed” with Ofsted’s view that apprenticeship recruitment was done without integrity, but his firm did not challenge the inspectorate.
He told FE Week: “We don’t necessarily agree with them but it’s pretty pointless arguing. We’d say there’s a huge amount of subjectivity. Ofsted talked about having a lack of integrity with regard to onboarding learners and something I disagree with wholeheartedly. Our view and the reality of what that learner is doing is very different. It just feels the cards are stacked against us.”
Ofsted’s report said those in charge at Libra have now implemented new processes to improve the recruitment of apprentices but it is “too early to see the full impact of these changes”.
Heward confirmed his company will now exit the apprenticeships space.
He said there has “not been a lot of support” for a new apprenticeship provider, especially for one that entered the market just months before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
“We have done everything we can to stick by our learners even when funding was being exhausted. We tried everything we could to get them through,” he added.
Ofsted did find during its inspection that most apprentices enjoy their training sessions and demonstrate respect and courtesy for their coaches and colleagues.
Leaders and managers were also praised for having a clear rationale for the curriculum that they offer, in response to local and national employers’ skills needs, and for recruiting staff who have the appropriate industry expertise and qualifications to teach apprentices.