A private provider has been suspended from taking on new learners after Ofsted found a “few cases” of apprentices who did not know they were enrolled on an apprenticeship.

Inspectors also claimed that a “minority” of employers who work with NextStep Training Limited are not aware that apprentices should have time in work for off-the-job training.

The provider, based in east London, had been a subcontractor before winning its own direct contract to deliver apprenticeships in February 2020. It has 50 apprentices across various subjects including ICT, business, administration and law and health, public services and care.

Ofsted judged the firm to be making ‘insufficient progress’ in two of the three themes of a new provider monitoring visit, the report from which was published today.

A spokesperson for the provider confirmed they have now been temporarily banned from recruiting new apprentices until their grade improves, in line with Education and Skills Funding Agency rules.

NextStep Training did not contest Ofsted’s findings, but said they are not as straightforward as the report states.

The provider’s spokesperson said the instance of apprentices not knowing they are on an apprenticeship “happened with one of the adult care learners who had grievance with her employers and responded [to inspectors] that she did not know what was happening”.

And in response to the concerns about off-the-job training, the spokesperson said: “Employers are aware of the time off work for the study. Health and social care employers do not release apprentices for the whole day. They rather release them on a flexible basis.”


Apprentices’ work is of the minimum standard required

Ofsted’s report also said the experience of apprentices on different programmes and with different employers is “markedly varied”.

“This reflects the extent to which leaders and managers have not been able to establish effectiveness across all programmes in their oversight of the apprenticeships,” it said. “They have been more successful with apprenticeships in business administration and ICT, than in care sector apprenticeships.”

Inspectors also found “too many” apprentices do not have a “clear plan of when they will complete their coursework” and apprentices who are nearing the end of their programme are “unprepared and do not know when they will achieve” their English and maths component.

Some apprentices have job roles which are “inappropriate for their level of study” and “too often tutors do not take into consideration well enough what apprentices already know and can do at the start of the programme”.

In “most cases”, apprentices’ work is of the “minimum standard required and does not reflect sufficiently the level of knowledge, understanding and writing skills appropriate to their programme”. Staff also “do not prepare apprentices effectively enough for their final assessments”.

Ofsted did praise the provider for employing “experienced and qualified assessors and tutors” and for putting in place effective safeguarding arrangements.

The provider’s spokesperson said: “We have deployed a range of measures with an action plan and hired an external quality assurance person to check and monitor the progress. 

“We are hopeful the next visit will be an example of excellent progress.”

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