Manchester provider’s AEB contracts terminated early

Bootcamps contract also ended by combined authority but provider continues to deliver the scheme through its local council

Bootcamps contract also ended by combined authority but provider continues to deliver the scheme through its local council

A private training provider has lost contracts worth over half a million pounds with Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) after Ofsted branded its adult skills training ‘inadequate’.

In 2023-24, GMCA paid Blackburn-based Get SET Academy (GSA) £521,690 for adult education services, but an update on the authority’s spending this week says this has been cut to zero as the provider “failed Ofsted minimum requirements”.

Following an inspection in August last year, Ofsted rated GSA ‘requires improvement’ overall but its adult learning programmes as ‘inadequate’, describing the standard of training that adult learners receive as “poor”.

Ofsted also slammed GSA’s 12-week digital skills bootcamp as “too complex” and taught at an “extremely rapid pace”.

Inspectors reported that few bootcamp learners developed “substantial new knowledge” and raised concerns that learners were unclear about whether or when they would have a job interview lined up with a local employer – despite this being a key part of the course.

According to GMCA’s adult education contract specifications, providers are expected to have a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating.

No uniform approach to poor Ofsted grades

Last year, FE Week reported that most mayoral combined authorities with control over their adult education budget take a discretionary approach to whether providers with ‘inadequate’ Ofsted grades see their contracts terminated.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency’s contract guidance states that it has discretionary powers over poor-performing providers, which can include options such as suspending new starts, reducing payments, or terminating the contract entirely following an Ofsted grade four report.

GSA told FE Week it lost three contracts with GMCA, including free courses for jobs training, adult education, and skills bootcamps, which has “curtailed” the company’s growth plans.

However, the company continues to provide digital marketing skills bootcamps with Lancashire County Council extending its contract into 2024.

It also continues to provide Multiply maths training and apprenticeships in early years and pharmacy.

A spokesperson said: “Although we had a poor grade for adult learning, specifically the digital skills bootcamp, that was due to having an over-ambitious curriculum as we tried to cover the majority of what the employers were looking for.

“Since then, we have condensed the curriculum, which is relevant to the learner to progress and gain the right level of knowledge and skills to enable them to progress towards an apprenticeship or employment.”

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council said: “Following the Get Set Academy Ofsted report in October, a visit has taken place to meet the quality team, review the quality improvement plan and conduct an observation.

“During this meeting learners were interviewed and presented a positive attitude towards their course.

“Retention on the course is excellent and job outcomes are very positive.

“Lancashire will continue to monitor performance of leaners and seek their feedback.”

A spokesperson for GMCA said: “Since Greater Manchester took responsibility for the devolved adult education budget we have worked hard to ensure that adult skills provision is of a good standard for learners in our city-region.

“These standards are set out clearly in our procurement process and in contracts with providers.

“Where providers are found not to meet these standards we reserve the right to take action, including terminating contracts.”

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