A new apprenticeship provider has expressed its “frustrations” with the validity of an Ofsted report that now threatens its ability to recruit.
MRG Services UK Limited’s 76 apprentices were found to “not develop substantial new knowledge, skills and behaviours” among a litany of criticisms, in a monitoring report published on Tuesday that resulted in ‘insufficient progress’ judgments in every area.
Inspectors discovered “too many cases” where the apprentices, studying the level 5 operations/departmental manager, level 2 fenestration (glass-fitting), or level 3 and 4 business and teaching standards were “simply deepening their understanding of topics and consolidating existing skills”.
Inspector had ‘very limited contact time’
But the Merseyside-based provider has hit back, saying that while it accepts the inspection process is “vital” to ensuring improvement, “our frustrations, which have unfortunately continued through the complaint process, centre on the validity of evidence in the one-and-a-half-day visit”.
Inspectors, the provider said, visited while many of the staff were still working from home or furloughed, which “inevitably led to very limited contact time”.
The inspector covering themes one and two of the inspection – ensuring that the provider is meeting all the requirements of successful apprenticeship provision, and ensuring that apprentices benefit from high-quality training that leads to positive outcomes – did so from home, allegedly.
As such, they did not have direct access to any observations of teaching and learning, MRG’s enrichment programme, session evaluations, or action reports, the provider claimed.
Ofsted comments ‘not based upon fact’
The report says leaders “do not have an accurate oversight of apprentices’ progress”, so do not adequately support learners who fall behind.
A lack of challenge from the governing board meant apprentices receive a “poor” standard of training.
Tutors do not teach the curriculum for the level 5 standard in a “logical order”, with apprentices attending monthly management workshops and having to choose online topics to learn in between them.
Yet MRG says the comments regarding its delivery “are not based upon fact”.
Ofsted also found the provider did not have “effective safeguarding arrangements in place”, and do not carry out “appropriate checks” when hiring new people.
Apprentices did not know who to report safeguarding concerns to at MRG, and only knew how to keep themselves safe in the workplace because of training by their employer, Ofsted said.
MRG Services said they take safeguarding “very seriously”, adding: “We must seek to maintain a robust system.”
However, they also said they would challenge the overarching judgments.
“Thankfully, the due process is for a repeat visit to take place within a very short period of time, when we believe that our frustrations over the validity of this monitoring visit will be vindicated.
“We welcome this further visit at Ofsted’s earliest convenience.”
Provider was praised for up-to-date learning
The inspectorate did say apprentices nearing the end of their programme understand the requirements of their assessment.
Leaders were also praised for providing subject-specific training for staff, so tutors attend leadership development webinars on “agile leadership”.
Tutors develop their occupational knowledge and provide learners with up-to-date learning.
A provider is usually suspended from recruiting apprentices if they score at least one ‘insufficient progress’ judgment in a new provider monitoring report, in line with Education and Skills Funding Agency rules.