An independent training provider in Nottingham has voiced its surprise after Ofsted published an ‘inadequate’ report while it was still challenging the findings.
Voluntary and Community Sector Learning and Skills Consortium, which trades as Enable, said it had challenged the grade four rating it received from the education watchdog in a report published on Wednesday, following a visit in January.
It had previously been rated ‘good’.
Teresa Cullen, chair of the board, said the organisation was “taken by surprise when it was published”.
“We were expecting to hear something further from them, it’s been a very difficult process really,” Cullen said.
“We didn’t expect to be inadequate, we haven’t been inadequate before. We feel very strongly that Ofsted haven’t taken into account the unique challenges of an organisation like ours.”
Cullen said it “feels very much like they had already decided before they arrived,” explaining that “the report doesn’t reflect the feedback they gave us on site”. She added that the impact of Covid-19 recovery wasn’t taken into consideration, and felt inspectors “didn’t understand” the provider’s niche in the market.
Cullen acknowledged there was “a lot at stake” given Education and Skills Funding Agency guidance dictates that ‘inadequate’ providers will have their ESFA funding withdrawn.
The organisation confirmed that it is currently in negotiations with the ESFA.
However, Cullen said that withdrawal of funding could put the jobs at risk for around half of the provider’s 27-strong team, and could have an impact on the 11 subcontractors it works with too, some of which are third sector organisations.
At the time of the inspection, Enable had 330 learners and apprentices, the majority of whom were on employability, English and maths courses for adults.
The report said tutors did not identify what apprentices could do at the start of their courses, or use assessments to plan individualised programmes as a result.
It found that “too often” tutors were not aware of learners’ additional needs or know how to support them.
Inspectors reported that too many learners didn’t attend lessons often enough, while the “vast majority” of learners didn’t benefit from activities beyond their vocational training.
Ofsted said that leaders, managers and trustees “do not have an accurate oversight or understand the quality of the teaching they provide, including that of subcontractors”.
The organisation works with 11 subcontractors, whom Ofsted found received “no guidance or support to develop and improve the quality of the courses they provide, beyond checks of their compliance documentation.”
The report continued that Enable’s self-assessment report is “overly positive” while weaknesses previously identified still remained and “performance has declined significantly”.
It said that learners’ targets were too generic, apprentices didn’t receive frequent reviews and were poorly prepared for their end point assessment.
Elsewhere, teaching was dubbed “ineffective” with teachers not readily available due to other teaching commitments and teaching resources were outdated.
More than 100 students were on access to HE courses. Ofsted found learners were expected to work independently on with no input from tutors unless there were problems.
Inspectors said that safeguarding measures were not effective, as leaders and managers didn’t ensure staff are suitable to work with learners and apprentices and did not carry out due diligence checks on tutors.