One of England’s largest training providers has been rapped by Ofsted for serious safeguarding failures in its early years provision.
The watchdog also claims the company, part of a global venture capital firm incorporated in the US, is under investigation by another agency.
Ofsted’s announced safeguarding inspection of GP Strategies Training took place in February following concerns raised by whistleblowers. It culminated in a critical report published last week.
Both the government and provider have declined to comment on whether recruitment of apprentices has been suspended as a result of ‘insufficient’ judgments being scored across the board.
The report said leaders and managers do not know if their apprentices who work with young children have completed Disclosure and Barring Service checks, nor how many places they are employed in.
The watchdog labelled apprentices’ knowledge of safeguarding requirements as “superficial” and “confused” as training in this area is “too rare”.
Inspectors were also concerned that all apprentices follow the same training plan, irrespective of the type of setting they are employed in or the ages of the children they work with.
Additionally, the provider was criticised for poor record keeping and reviews of safeguarding incidents, as well as their process to raise formal concerns, which “lacks clarity”.
GP Strategies Training is part of GP Strategies Corporation and began delivering apprenticeships in 1997.
It has since risen to become one of the biggest providers in the country, recording almost 13,000 starts over the past three years in areas such as adult care, childcare and education, and business and management.
The provider also became a named apprenticeship delivery supplier by the Crown Commercial Service to deliver training to the civil service in 2017.
Ofsted’s safeguarding visit only focused on GP Strategies’ early years apprenticeships. The inspectorate alleged in its report that the concerns first raised with the watchdog “remain under investigation by another agency”.
When approached for further comment about this other investigation, GP Strategies claimed it was not involved in any other inquiry but refused to say whether it is challenging the watchdog over this.
A spokesperson for Ofsted told FE Week it “wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment on or provide information relating to external investigations”.
The Education and Skills Funding Agency said it reserves the right to remove an organisation from the register of apprenticeship training providers and stop all current and future apprenticeship delivery if Ofsted raises concerns about safeguarding and identifies a significant risk to apprentices.
A spokesperson for the agency said they would not comment on individual cases when asked if the ESFA was conducting its own investigation into GP Strategies or whether it had suspended starts.
GP Strategies was still advertising apprenticeship vacancies at nurseries at the time of going to press.
‘They have acted immediately to put relevant measures in place’
Ofsted said it takes safeguarding “very seriously” and the outcome of this monitoring visit might give rise to an earlier full inspection or a follow-up visit.
Commenting on the safeguarding failings, a GP Strategies Training representative said: “GP Strategies Training have taken on board the conclusions of the progress monitoring report and take very seriously the concerns expressed by Ofsted.
“They have acted immediately to put relevant measures in place. The safety and security of their learners, partners and staff is their main priority and they are committed to supporting and promoting best practice across the diverse and complex areas in which they operate, and to advocate a strong, accountable culture.”
GP Strategies Training has added a safeguarding section to its website since Ofsted’s visit, detailing its policy for keeping people safe as well as contact details for reporting concerns.