A dental training school that recently moved into the apprenticeships market by training learners solely online has received a scathing Ofsted verdict.
Lotus Education Ltd, which also goes by the name Lotus Dental School, has been running commercial training courses since 2012, but began delivering Level 3 dental nursing apprenticeships in 2021.
It claims on its website to offer “a great course that changes the lives of our students”.
But Ofsted inspectors carrying out an early monitoring visit found a catalogue of issues, determining that the provider was making ‘insufficient progress’ across the board in a report published this week.
The report said that most apprentices – 33 at the time of the inspection and mostly aged 19 and above – were in dental practices in the east of England, but “apprenticeship training is provided wholly online”.
Inspectors reported that “no apprentices will complete their apprenticeship in the time planned” at Lotus, and said that few reviews of their skills training had taken place so far.
The report said that apprentices used recordings of lessons to consolidate their learning, but “assessors accept apprentices catching up on missed lessons as off-the-job learning”.
In addition, inspectors found that staff did not have “appropriate expertise to provide a programme of training that meets the requirements of an apprenticeship”, such as English and maths training.
Ofsted has voiced concerns over online-only teaching in the past. In its latest education recovery research published in July, the watchdog said: “Unless there are clear benefits for learners and their curriculum, remote learning narrows opportunities for skills acquisition and rehearsal, and limits social engagement.”
In the same paper it added that learners are “unable to learn practical skills remotely”.
Chief inspector Amanda Spielman addressing the Annual Apprenticeship Conference in 2021 said that “remote apprenticeships are very much the second-best option, reserved for crises such as the pandemic”.
She added: “Face-to-face training for apprentices is still the gold standard for most industries.”
Lotus’ Ofsted report said that managers had not yet ensured that apprentices had received their off-the-job training entitlement, and managers did not identify which aspects of the training were good and which needed improving.
It added that tutors did not use assessment effectively to inform ongoing learning, or mark written work promptly, as well as failing to provide feedback that helped apprentices improve.
Inspectors noted that the staff turnover was high, which had negatively impacted on learning. “A significant proportion of apprentices have left their apprenticeship early,” as a result of losing motivation, the report added.
Employers, the report said, were not invited to be involved in planning training or progress reviews, but noted that employers themselves were fully involved in the learning of apprentices at work.
Basic expectations of keeping apprentices safe were also not covered, the watchdog found.
The provider now faces a suspension on starts until Ofsted identifies improvements, in line with government funding rules.
Ofsted guidance states that a provider receiving an insufficient progress judgment in a monitoring visit will likely receive a full inspection within six-to-12 months of their monitoring report being published.
Lotus did not respond to requests for comment.