An NHS trust has left the apprenticeship provider market following a highly critical Ofsted report.

Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV) was branded ‘inadequate’ in its first full inspection report published this week.

Inspectors found a litany of problems at the provider, which was training almost 200 apprentices, including poor subcontracting oversight, a failure to take account of prior learning and weak on- and off-the-job training integration.

Sarah Dexter-Smith, director of people and culture at the trust, confirmed they will now stop delivery and apologised for the disruption it will cause apprentices who need to find alternative providers.

The trust will, however, continue to employ apprentices and train them with partner colleges and universities.

Ofsted’s deputy director for further education, Paul Joyce, told the Association of Employment and Learning Providers autumn conference last week it was “really concerning” that a number of new providers are being found to be ‘inadequate’ at their first inspection, particularly having had the benefit of a new provider monitoring visit prior to that inspection.

According to the watchdog’s latest published data, there are 12 independent training providers that were rated ‘inadequate’ at their first full inspection.

Another private provider – Freshfield Training Associates Ltd – was also given
a grade four in its first full inspection this week.

TEWV provides support services for mental health, learning disabilities and eating disorders. It was founded in 2006 and began offering apprenticeships within the trust in 2017.

Ofsted did praise apprentices for being “well motivated and keen to learn”, while the trust’s leaders provide them with a “wide range of helpful information on how to keep themselves safe”.

However, inspectors found that all apprentices on each programme study the same content, regardless of what they already know and can do.

Leaders and managers do not ensure that apprentices follow a programme that covers all elements of the apprenticeship standard, the report said. They “focus too heavily on the completion of the diploma qualification element of the programme, and do not plan a suitably integrated programme of on- and off-the-job training for apprentices”.

“Too many” apprentices are also “not informed well enough” about the programme to which they sign up. Some business administration apprentices enrol on programmes based on the grade band of their job role rather than their individual development needs, for example.

TEWV subcontracts the teaching of English and maths functional skills to Hartlepool College, The Education and Training Collective, and York College.

Ofsted found that TEWV leaders and tutors are “over-reliant” on subcontractors for the supervision of apprentices. “Too often, TEWV tutors simply check that apprentices who need functional skills qualifications have enrolled on appropriate courses,” inspectors said.

Responding to the report, Dexter said: “Following the Ofsted rating our focus is on our inhouse learners who will need to change provider. We have already started organising this with our local education centres and we’re meeting with each apprentice and their manager to support them through the change as seamlessly as we can and to make sure their learning continues. 

“We are really sorry for the disruption this is having on the apprentices affected by this.”

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