A new FE loans provider where tutors accept suspected copy-and-paste assignments from learners has been slammed by Ofsted.
Inspectors warned that a significant amount of written work submitted by different students at London Cactus Limited is “identical”.
Tutors “accept the work at face value, without verifying that learners have completed the work themselves”.
Ofsted also said managers recruit too many learners on to programmes who do not have the necessary level of English to “maximise their chances of succeeding on the programme”.
London Cactus Limited has been delivering FE loans provision since 2017, receiving almost £1 million in Education and Skills Funding Agency allocations to date.
It has also recently started to deliver health and social care apprenticeships, the provision of which was also in scope for Ofsted’s visit. But the provider only has 12 apprentices on its books, with its main provision being adult FE loans to a current cohort of 72 learners on business and care courses.
The watchdog’s new provider monitoring visit report shows three out of four ‘insufficient progress’ judgments. The provider now faces a suspension on apprenticeship starts, but ESFA policy mandates it can continue recruiting adult learners despite the poor judgments.
Inspectors found that the loans learners only attend the course for between three and four hours each week for a total of six months, which is “substantially lower than the recommended total course hours stipulated by the awarding body”.
Tutors were criticised for not identifying how the programme might fit with learners’ longer-term career or personal goals. And in lessons, a high proportion of learners “struggle to grasp more complex concepts and do not demonstrate spoken or written responses at the appropriate level” as they do not hold the required level of English for the course.
As well as accepting identical work, tutors do not make learners aware of the potential for them to achieve above a pass grade, inspectors said.
“Most tutors’ feedback does not guide learners to improve their work and achieve higher marks. Learners are unable to explain how the feedback they receive from tutors helps them improve their work and develop further. All learners so far have only achieved pass grades.”
The provider did however score ‘reasonable progress’ for its safeguarding arrangements.
Ofsted said: “Apprentices and adult learners feel safe in learning and when working. They know whom to contact if they have any safeguarding concerns. Care apprentices are knowledgeable about safeguarding policies they need to adhere to, for example when lone working.”
And while most of its apprenticeship provision was criticised, leaders were praised for recruiting “skilled apprenticeship tutors who are knowledgeable and well qualified”.
London Cactus Limited did not respond to requests for comment.