16-19 funding to rise by 1.9% from August 2024

Per-student funding for 16-19-year-olds will increase by 1.9 per cent this coming academic year bringing the top funding rate for study programme students to £4,842.

The Department for Education said the increase marks the final year of the three-year settlement for 16 to 19 education reached at the government’s 2021 spending review. The spending review committed £324 million for an extra 40 teaching hours for students to “bring us closer to high-performing countries” which is included in the increased rates.

But the Association of Colleges has slated the increase which they said equates to a “drop” in funding of 10 per cent in real terms because of high inflation and extra teaching requirements. 

The uplift applies to every funding band for young people on study programmes and T Levels.

Young people aged 16 and 17, and those aged 18 or over with high needs, will attract an increased base rate of £4,843, up £90 on this year

Meanwhile, a two-year T Level student funded by the top band of 1,730 minimum planned hours will attract a base rate of £15,330. This is an increase of £284 from the 2023/24 base rate. 

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said that while 16 to 19 funding had increased in real terms, “the impact is a fall of 10 per cent” and will hit colleges struggling to recruit and retain teachers in key skill shortage subjects like maths and engineering. 

“The drop in funding coincides with a time in which colleges are finding it increasingly hard to attract and retain staff. This is particularly difficult in certain subjects such as maths, construction, engineering,” he added.

“The government recognised it needed to help with that gap last year but this announcement suggests it has no plan for this year on how to address it. Colleges now need the government to devise a long-term plan on pay, with more investment.” 

Today’s funding announcement coincided with changes to the government’s controversial English and maths condition of funding policy. 

Disadvantage and care leaver funding rates will also increase from August 2024. 

Students who are in or have recently left care will see their additional per-student disadvantage funding increase from £559 to £570. 

Disadvantage block 2 funding, for students with low prior attainment, will increase to £570 for students in bands 4 and 5, to £347 for students in bands 2 and 3, and to £772 for T Level students.

The high-value course premium will remain at £600 for eligible qualifications. 

Maths changes

Extra funding to promote take-up of level 3 maths courses will be split into two categories from 2024. 

A new core maths premium, worth £900, will be paid for students taking the core maths A (MEI) level 3 certificate, the core maths B (MEI) level 3 certificate, the Pearson Edexcel level 3 certificate in mathematics in context or the AQA certificate level 3 mathematical studies.

Students eligible for the core maths premium must already have a grade 9 to 4 in GCSE maths or equivalent. They must also take the core maths qualification in the first year of their study programme or T Level. 

The advanced maths premium remains in place, but funding will be increased from £600 to £900. Qualifications above that are now core maths qualifications have been removed from the advanced maths premium list. Unlike the core maths premium, advanced maths premium qualifications can be taken over one or two years of a study programme or T Level.

DfE to introduce English and maths resit minimum hours and scrap 5% tolerance

The government is set to introduce minimum teaching hours for its controversial English and maths condition of funding policy and scrap the 5 per cent tolerance threshold.

Significant changes to rules around English and maths resits were announced by the Department for Education today as it revealed a 1.89 per cent increase to 16 to 18 funding rates for the 2024/25 academic year.

The divisive “condition of funding” policy, introduced in 2014, means that colleges must help students who failed to achieve a pass – grade 4 or above – to retake their GCSEs, or else risk losing funding.

Department for Education rules haven’t stipulated a minimum number of teaching hours for those resit students until now. 

But from September 2024, full-time resit students will be “expected” to study at least three hours per week for English and four hours for maths and pro-rata for part-time learners.

This study should be “stand-alone, whole-class, in-person teaching, with any additional support, such as small group tuition or online support, supplementary to these minimum classroom hours”, according to the new rules.

The minimum hours rule will only be an “expectation” in 2024/25 to “reflect that despite best efforts not all institutions may be able to meet this from as early as September 2024”.

But it will become a strict rule from 2025/26 from which point funding reductions will be made in cases of non-compliance.

FE Week understands the DfE had become concerned that colleges had moved away from offering these sorts of teaching hours after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Today’s announcement said the new minimum classroom teaching hours “reflect the established practice noted across institutions pre-pandemic”, and added: “We know that many settings are already meeting the minimum hours or are on a journey back towards this. Our amendments will ensure that this progress is consistent across the country, so that all students receive a standard number of taught hours.”

Phased removal of 5% tolerance

The DfE will also implement a phased removal of the 5 per cent tolerance rule starting from 2025/26. 

Currently, the department applies funding reductions to colleges above a tolerance of 5 per cent of total 16 to 19 students for learners who do not meet the condition of funding. Funding is removed for each student above the tolerance level at half the national funding rate.

Officials announced today that they will change the tolerance to 2.5 per cent in the academic year 2025/26, which will impact funding allocations in the 2027/28 academic year.

The tolerance will then be scrapped altogether in the academic year 2026/27, which impacts 2028/29 allocation.

FE Week understands the DfE drew up the plans after becoming concerned at rising rates of non-compliance.

Today’s announcement said: “The aim of removing the tolerance is to support as many students as possible to achieve a level 2 English and maths qualification.”

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, described the new conditions of funding as “wholly unhelpful” and called for them to be suspended.

“Expecting colleges to be able to find new staff to deliver an extra 100 hours of English and 140 hours of maths teaching is simply unrealistic, particularly when schools who are paying so much more cannot find those teachers themselves,” he said.

“Around 200,000 students resit a GCSE or functional skills in English and/or maths in FE colleges. The extra hours would require about 800 extra maths teachers, and 400 extra English teachers. That won’t happen unless fair pay is addressed as a matter of urgency.”

Wolf offers 3 apprenticeship policy ‘slam dunks’ for next government

A former skills adviser to the prime minister has called on the next government to reduce the rate that employers pay into the apprenticeship levy but extend the tax to more businesses.

Baroness Alison Wolf also suggests cutting support for older apprentices while culling expensive apprenticeships in oversupplied occupations.

She described these “straightforward changes” as policy “slam dunks” in an opinion piece for the Financial Times yesterday in which she warned Labour against its plans to expand the levy to fund other forms of training.

Wolf, author of the 2011 review of vocational education, served as a part-time adviser on skills to the prime minister from February 2020 to February 2023 and is currently a non-executive director at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. 

She is also a crossbench peer in the House of Lords and professor of public sector management at King’s College London.

Wolf made the case for an employer levy to fund apprenticeship training in a report published in 2015 days before the government first unveiled the charge but has voiced her concerns with the design of the system since before it was launched in 2017.

She has long questioned why the government made it so that only large businesses with a payroll in excess of £3 million pay into the levy at a rate of 0.5 per cent of salary costs.

Under the system, levy-paying employers use what they pay into the levy to cover the costs of apprenticeship training. But the funds expire within 24 months if not used and go towards funding apprenticeships in small and medium-sized enterprises.

During a select committee hearing in 2016, Wolf described the system as “very odd” and suspected the design was “decided the night before” it was announced.

Wolf’s Financial Times article said the apprenticeship programme is “heading in the wrong direction on multiple fronts” because of this “flawed” unique funding system.

She wrote: “More and more apprenticeships are lengthy, high-level and expensive. Apprentices are increasingly older people who are often already employed and then get reclassified as apprentices, while openings for young people, especially the most deprived, have fallen fast.”

Government statistics back up Wolf’s claims. Starts have dropped 10 per cent overall since 2017/18 compared to 2022/23, but while under-19 starts have dropped by 27 per cent, starts for those aged 25 or older have grown 3 per cent.

Over that same period starts at levels 2 and 3 have dropped by 53 per cent and 11 per cent respectively, while starts between levels 4 and 7, which are the most expensive to deliver, have shot up by 135 per cent.

On top of this around half of apprentices drop out before completing their programme each year.

Wolf said the current apprenticeship offer “completely fails to tackle the yawning skills gaps in the economy”, citing current government estimates that just one in five apprenticeships are in a shortage occupation.

Wolf then ripped into the “strange” funding system that has led to these developments, including the mismatch, as previously reported by FE Week, between how much the levy raises compared to how much is actually distributed to fund apprenticeship training.

She explained: “Most apprenticeships are paid for by a flawed ‘levy’ on large employers. Small and medium firms are exempt. Those large employers can pay less of the tax if they take on apprentices themselves. Unsurprisingly, they have become better at this over time — hence the growth in apprenticeships for older people already working for the company, as well as in higher-level training that soaks up large levy sums.

“The result is that less money is left over for young people and SMEs. Because the Treasury treats the levy as a hypothecated tax, it refuses to top up the budget significantly for everyone else. The result? Terrible apprenticeship numbers in the occupations that the country most needs, and for the people who most want to do them.”

Wolf warned that Labour, as part of its pro-business drives, risks “making things worse” after it committed to allowing half of the apprenticeship levy to be spent on non-apprenticeship training.

“This would surely result in large companies keeping and spending even more of the levy money internally with even less going towards technical apprenticeships for young people,” she said.

Wolf said Labour should look instead to “sensible reforms” which could “spark an apprenticeship renaissance”.

“It should consider the following: a smaller levy but one paid by more companies; less support for older adult apprentices; and a cull of expensive apprenticeships in oversupplied occupations,” according to Wolf.

“These straightforward changes would transform the system at no additional cost to the Treasury. Voters would like it and the economy would benefit. Policy slam dunks like this rarely present themselves. The next government would be mad not to take advantage of it.”

The role apprenticeships now play in the teaching sector 

Apprenticeships are crucial in marrying academic learning with practical skills. This synergy is vital to address workforce shortages, notably in the education and early years sectors.  

My dedication to this cause is personal, not just as a parent, but also in my role leading a university with a rich legacy in teacher training and early childhood education.  

As chair of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s (IfATE) education and early years route panel, I witness the growing impact of apprenticeships on meeting employer demands and workforce needs.

Research highlights a concerning trend in the early years and school sectors, with significant workforce shortages already here, or looming.  

There is a real urgency in developing additional robust pathways, such as apprenticeships, to attract and retain talent in this amazing and crucial sector.

I am enthusiastic about apprenticeships as a recognised pathway into advanced careers.  

This stems from the fact that apprenticeship standards are crafted in direct response to employer needs, guaranteeing the skills and knowledge acquired are pertinent and instantly valuable in the workplace.  

The employer-driven method adapts education to the changing demands of practice, turning apprenticeships into a direct route to excellent employment opportunities and a competent workforce.  

Teachers who excel combine practical experience with intellectual insight, making apprenticeships a logical alternative route for entering the profession.

At my university – a provider of high-level and degree apprenticeships – I am continually inspired by the dedication and resilience of apprentices who balance the rigours of academic study with the practical demands of on-the-job learning.  

We are in the midst of an educational evolution

This blend of learning styles is indeed challenging, yet it embodies the best of both worlds, preparing apprentices for a dynamic work environment. Their success stories are a testament to the effectiveness of apprenticeships in nurturing skilled professionals. 

I recently asked some of our apprenticeship students what they value most about this route of study. They highlighted that they are working alongside experts and are given enhanced opportunities and responsibilities which are allowing them to grow professionally and to develop their careers. They benefit from learning through a very hands-on experience, and they very much feel a part of the communities in which they are working and learning.  

Additionally, earning a salary whilst studying is particularly important in the current financial environment and means that apprenticeship pathways are not limited by the ability to take time off work whilst studying.  

The route also allows our students to balance family and caring responsibilities. 

Our education and early years route panel, together with collaborating employers, continues to contribute to the dynamic offerings of the apprenticeship landscape.  

It’s been encouraging to witness the media attention on the emerging undergraduate teacher degree apprenticeship.  

Awaiting approval this coming autumn, it holds promise for helping teacher recruitment in schools and early years settings.  

It will improve access to the profession to those who might find traditional full-time study challenging, such as teaching assistants or existing educational staff.  

This initiative is anticipated to be a catalyst for social mobility and a substantial support to schools in engaging and maintaining the skilled teachers they necessitate.

We are in the midst of an educational evolution, with apprenticeships broadening access to numerous professions for a diverse array of individuals. This is instrumental in bridging skills shortages and is of immense benefit to the country. 

Apprenticeships – as they have evolved – have rapidly become a foundational element within our educational framework, essential for bridging the skills gap and mitigating workforce shortages and I am pleased to see them growing in importance within education and early years settings.  

As we celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, I’m delighted to recognise and endorse the significant contribution of apprenticeships to cultivating a robust, well-skilled, and flexible workforce for the future. 

Reform is coming for the apprenticeship levy — but what it needs is a revolution  

Depending on who wins the next election, the apprenticeship levy may be one of its major casualties – at least in its current form.  

Faced with the government’s rigid efforts to double down on the levy, ideas to overhaul it have been advancing apace.  

These include a flexible skills levy, proposed by the Lifelong Education Institute, designed to cover a wider range of training including short and modular courses, and a plan by Onward for 16–19 apprenticeships to be fully funded by the DfE, at an estimated cost of £1.6bn.  

Labour’s plan is to turn the apprenticeship into a “growth and skills levy”, allowing businesses to use 50 per cent of their contributions on non-apprenticeship training. 

Judging by recent interventions by Tesco and Marks & Spencer, employers are firmly in the mood for change.  

So, if we are plausibly months away from a massive transformation in how we fund a quarter of our vocational learning and training in the UK, we should use this moment to take stock of what the apprenticeship levy – or its successor – is trying to achieve. 

Fundamentally, the levy works as a redistribution mechanism within the relatively closed system of the UK business community.  

It redistributes a small share of the profits of the 2 per cent of businesses eligible to pay it – those with over £3m in payroll – to make more money available for smaller businesses to invest in human capital. It is, in effect, a hypothecated corporation tax with a payroll-based eligibility threshold. We should bear this in mind when we think about how to make the levy more effective.  

One way is to lower the eligibility threshold to bring more businesses into the levy system, and introduce a progressive step system to levy rates.  

Employers are firmly in the mood for change

For instance, the current 0.5 per cent rate could apply to businesses with over £1m in payroll, rise to 1.25 per cent for those over £2m, and 2.5 per cent for those over £3m.  

This would significantly raise the revenue available to fund upskilling. This revenue should be divided according to the Labour 50–50 model: 50 per cent to fund higher and degree apprenticeships for mid-career workers over 25, 50 per cent for short course provision for all employees, which would apply above all to larger businesses. 

Apprenticeships at level 3 and below should be taken out of the levy system and fully funded through the DfE, to put apprentices on a par with their school and college peers.  

All training for 16–21-year-olds should be subject to a minimum pay mandate, set at the national living wage. This would ensure that younger workers, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, benefit not only from upskilling but also from an additional income buffer when they commit to an apprenticeship. 

The revised levy should introduce a 20 per cent funding uplift for SMEs taking on all types of apprentices, and an equivalent uplift for all levy-payers taking on new employees as apprentices – since an estimated 60 per cent or more are currently existing employees. This should be covered by the levy income left unspent at the end of each fiscal year, which ran to £550m in 2022/23 alone. To aid with this, the levy budget should be updated quarterly to reduce the lag on “underspend” discrepancy. 

The reformed levy should raise the share that businesses can allocate to others in their supply chain from 25 per cent to 100 per cent.  

This capability should also be extended so that businesses with surplus levy funds can act as sectoral or regional “anchor institutions”, in effect sponsoring and supporting SMEs in their orbit that would otherwise struggle with the administrative burden of participating in the apprenticeship framework.  

The aim should ultimately be to create an adult skills account that empowers individual learners to take charge of their own upskilling journey.  

That is what kickstarting a skills revolution looks like. 

Don’t leave young people out of the apprenticeship conversation 

As we pause for reflection and celebration this National Apprenticeship Week, we need to make sure we include the voices of young people in the conversation.  

We often hear about what business needs or what training should look like. Skills gaps, industrial strategies, funding. All crucial. But this all begins with a young person having access to an extraordinary experience. A job with training now, and a pathway to continued learning later. 

And what are young people saying?  

They increasingly know about apprenticeships…and like them. UCAS’s Project Next Generation report reveals that 59 per cent of young people in Years 9-12 are now considering an apprenticeship. Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) data finds that understanding of apprenticeships doubles from 39 per cent in year 7 to 79 per cent by year 11.  

Young people see – as we do – that apprenticeships can be life-changing routes. An opportunity for hands-on learning, a chance to find their way to rewarding careers. 

However, awareness and ambition are not the same as uptake.  

And there remains friction at points of transition. Part of this relates to the dynamics (and geography) of supply and demand. Previous UCAS research has revealed one in three students were prevented from pursuing an apprenticeship due to a lack of roles in their desired industry.  

There are other factors at play too, though, which UCAS and the CEC are committed to tackling. 

First, we need to make sure young people are inspired by apprenticeships from an early age. Deciding to take a work-based route rather than the well-trodden academic pathway can be daunting and there is a long lead-in time.  

Awareness and ambition are not the same as uptake

High-quality, employer-focused and integrated careers programmes are important here. The enhanced provider access legislation which CEC is supporting schools to implement can make a difference too. It entitles learners to six encounters with providers of apprenticeships or other technical pathways.  

Second, we need to ensure there is parity in the way that students explore and connect to apprenticeship opportunities and more established academic routes.  

Last year, more than 40 per cent of students applying through UCAS expressed an interest in apprenticeships. UCAS’s expansion of its apprenticeship services last year means young people can see more personalised options, including apprenticeships within the UCAS Hub, alongside undergraduate choices.  

Students can search for an apprenticeship at any time throughout the year, as and when employers are hiring, with vacancies updated in real-time. These enhancements are transforming the experience of students taking that next step towards an apprenticeship – and connecting employers to apprentice talent that best fits their business needs and skills shortages. 

Third, we need to help young people have meaningful and ongoing experiences with employers. UCAS found that 85 per cent of young people consider this important for getting their apprenticeship. This work is good for young people and businesses alike.  

A CEC survey of more than 300 firms, who together employ more than one million people found, as a result of their work in schools and colleges, they are boosting apprenticeship and job applicants (75 per cent and 78 per cent respectively). Seven in 10 say it is helping close skills gaps. In practice, this has seen employers gaining a better understanding of young people, with a number of firms adapting their outreach and application approaches as a result. 

So, as we marvel at the superb achievements of many apprentices for National Apprenticeship Week, we know there is more to do to make the system inspiring, accessible and as easy as possible to navigate. Our collective ambition is to help everyone find their best next step – so they can be set up for a life of opportunity and success. 

IfATE backtracks on public sector T Level targets

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) has seemingly backtracked on an agreement by its board to lobby for T Level placement targets in the public sector.

Minutes from the institute’s recently published July 2023 board meeting said the board had “agreed to write to the Cabinet Office to lobby for setting targets for public sector contracts to include apprenticeships and T Level industry placement opportunities”.

However, after FE Week asked what progress had been made with this effort, an IfATE spokesperson said officials later agreed with the board not to send the letter – and refused to confirm that it was still pushing for the targets.

Exract from IfATE board minutes (July 2023)

The July meeting took place days after an FE Week investigation found the majority of government departments and education agencies had not provided any T Level industry placements.

Data obtained through Freedom of Information requests found that while the Department for Education had provided six placements, it was an outlier in Whitehall.

The Treasury, Foreign Office, Department for Levelling Up and Communities, and Department for Culture, Media and Sport were all yet to offer a single T Level industry placement. The same was true for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Ministry of Justice.

IfATE itself had provided four industry placements for T Levels students, but none of the other DfE-linked agencies, like the Education and Skills Funding Agency, Ofsted and the Office for Students, provided any.

Skills minister Robert Halfon joined IfATE’s July board meeting to discuss government initiatives like the lifelong learning entitlement.

The minister “noted” a “feeling government departments could do more to provide industry placements for T Level students,” according to the minutes.

While the board agreed to “lobby for setting targets”, an IfATE spokesperson said it was instead “having regular conversations with both central government and employers to promote the use of apprenticeships and T Level placements”.

Tory constituencies hit hard by apprenticeship levy introduction

Conservative Party constituencies are bearing the brunt of the decline in apprenticeship starts since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy.

FE Week analysis shows that 57 per cent of the reduction in apprenticeship starts since the levy was introduced in 2017 was in constituencies with a Conservative MP. Forty per cent of the decline was in Labour constituencies.

Headline apprenticeship starts in England took a hit when the government introduced the apprenticeship levy in April 2017. Around 500,000 apprentices enrolled each year between 2014 and 2017, but after the first full year of the levy, that number had reduced to 376,000.

The pandemic further reduced annual starts and overall numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels.

There were 155,790 fewer apprenticeship starts in 2022/23 compared to 2016/17, the year before the levy was introduced. Nearly 90,000 of those were in Conservative constituencies.

Of England’s 533 parliamentary constituencies, just 23 have seen apprenticeship starts increase since the levy was introduced. The Conservative Party’s pledge of three million apprenticeship starts by 2020 featured in its 2015 and 2017 manifestos – but was dropped in 2018.

Reforms under the tenure of the Tories include introducing a 12-month minimum duration, co-funding training costs for small businesses, introducing digital accounts for employers, and replacing apprenticeship frameworks with standards.

Ministers have defended their apprenticeship reforms since 2017 amid falling numbers. In November, skills minister Robert Halfon said the government was focused on “quality, not quantity”.

Down since levy

Annual apprenticeship starts have dropped by over 1,000 in three parliamentary constituencies, all of them held by Conservative MPs and one of them by the prime minister Rishi Sunak.

Rishi Sunak

Apprenticeship starts in the prime minister’s constituency of Richmond in Yorkshire were showing signs of recovering following a drop when the levy was introduced. There were 4,060 starts in Rishi Sunak’s constituency in 2016/17, reducing to 3,610 and then 3,400 in the following two years.

In 2019/20 apprenticeship starts shot up to 4,110 but then reduced again over the pandemic years and continue to decline. There were 3,020 starts in 2022/23, 26 per cent below pre-levy levels but 421 per cent higher than the year before the 2010 general election when the Conservatives entered office.

Labour-held Liverpool Walton has seen a 60 per cent decline in annual apprenticeship starts since the introduction of the levy, the largest fall in the country. The constituency recorded 1,350 in 2016/17, the year before the levy was introduced. Numbers declined year on year after that to 540 in 2022/23.

Following Liverpool Walton is Easington (Labour) and Beverley and Holderness (Conservative), both with 57 per cent fewer apprenticeship starts compared to the pre-levy year.

Apprenticeship starts in Beverley and Holderness, held by energy minister Graham Stuart, dropped from 3,160 pre-levy to 1,360 last year.

FE Week’s analysis shows apprenticeship starts have increased in 23 of the 533 English parliamentary constituencies since the apprenticeship levy was introduced. Compared to the last full year of data, 2022/23, apprenticeship starts are the same in seven constituencies but have declined in 503.

Of the 503, 315 constituencies have a Conservative MP and 166 have a Labour MP. The remaining are held by 11 independents, such as former skills minister Matthew Hancock and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, nine Liberal Democrats, one Green party and one Reclaim Party.

Levy architects also lose out

In the Grantham and Stamford constituency, once held by levy-architect Nick Boles, apprenticeship starts have declined by 39 per cent from 1,080 pre-levy to 660 last year.

Nick Boles

Starts in education secretary Gillian Keegan’s constituency of Chichester have declined by 22 per cent since the levy was introduced, down from 640 to 500, but still 52 per cent up on 2010. 

And in skills minister Robert Halfon’s Harlow constituency, apprenticeship starts have reduced by 19 per cent from 700 pre-levy to 570 last year.

Other former skills ministers have also seen apprenticeship starts decline on their patch.

Starts have declined by 35 per cent in the constituencies of Hancock (West Suffolk) and John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings).

London constituencies have done the best since the levy was introduced, though from a low base.

When the levy appeared, the constituency of Putney was held by then education secretary, Justine Greening. Apprenticeship starts in Putney have increased by 48 per cent from 270 in 2016/17 to 400 in 2022/23, the most of any English constituency.

The top seven constituencies that have grown their annual apprenticeship starts since the levy was introduced are in Greater London; three are currently held by the Conservatives (Chelsea and Fulham, Wimbledon and Cities of London and Westminster), three by Labour (Putney, Tooting and Battersea) and one by the Liberal Democrats (Richmond Park).

Download FE Week’s constituency breakdown here

Local authority receives rare grade 4 Ofsted rating

A local authority in Yorkshire has been judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted after inspectors found no governance and a lack of “rigorous quality assurances” of its adult education and apprenticeships provision.

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council was handed the lowest possible Ofsted grade in a report published this morning, a downgrade from a ‘good’ rating five years ago.

It joins Bedford Borough Council as the only local authority in England with an Ofsted grade to hold an ‘inadequate’ judgment.

Inspectors investigated the council’s education provision in a full inspection in December 2023 and found leaders did not have clear oversight of the quality of education, neither the quality assurance agreements in place, nor any governance arrangements.

At the time of inspection, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council had 158 learners on adult and community learning courses studying ESOL, ICT and functional skills English and mathematics. They also had 33 apprentices, the majority of which enrolled on a level 3 business administration programme. The council operates from Redcar and Cleveland College’s campus.

The watchdog slammed council leaders as “they cannot assure themselves that the programmes they offer are of a high standard”.

The inspection also revealed that the council does not have in place any governance arrangements and urged them to establish a structure so leaders are “supported, challenged and held to account”.

Inspectors criticised the provider for not identifying poor teaching practice when it occurred.

“Leaders have recently implemented a more rigorous process for reviewing the quality of teaching. However, they do not monitor the actions they set for tutors following reviews, so they do not know if tutors are improving their teaching practice,” the report said.

Tutors did not plan programmes according to learners’ and apprentices’ starting points, in some cases such as the level 3 business administration apprenticeship, tutors didn’t identify and plan relevant learning for apprentices who had higher-level qualifications.

Tutors also did not check the progression and understanding of those same apprentices on what they learn in their on- and off-the-job training.

The report highlighted that the provider was not ambitious enough for learners with special educational needs and high needs and did not train staff to support those learners.

Inspectors pointed out that the training provided to tutors is “often not based on current research”.

“As a result, tutors do not improve their practice, and a few feel unprepared for their teaching roles,” the report said.

Meanwhile, Ofsted praised learners’ and apprentices’ behaviour and their attitude to work.

“Tutors create calm and respectful learning environments that help learners to study productively. Learners and apprentices demonstrate positive attitudes to their learning and take pride in their work,” they added.

A spokesperson for Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, said: “We are disappointed by the outcome of the Ofsted inspection but fully appreciate that the issues raised do need to be addressed and we are determined to implement the required changes to get back to a good outcome for all learners. The new administration is committed to taking action on inherited historical issues.

“Action was already being taken in relation to the issues identified by the Ofsted inspection and remedial action has been taken, including drafting in additional support for current learners, as well as dealing with staff issues in the team prior to the Ofsted inspection.

“Whilst Ofsted noted this intervention and that progress had been made, it was judged to be not timely enough and therefore at the time of inspection inadequate progress was made. We are confident that we can continue to implement the required changes and improvements to get the service back to good and make sure that all learners have a good experience and achieve positive outcomes.”