Ofsted watch: Anxious wait for loans learners after private provider’s damning grade four

Learners will face an anxious wait after an independent training provider that’s heavily focused on FE-loan funded provision was given the worst possible Ofsted rating.

Activ8 Learning, which is based in York and delivers programmes in early years education for adult learners who fund their courses through advanced learner loans, was today given ‘inadequate’ ratings across the board after being inspected last month.

The provider, which taught 93 learners over the previous full academic year, also offers other non-Education and Skills Funding Agency-funded provision – such as first aid and sports leadership courses, according to its website.

But this will still be a worrying time for the company and its learners, given that it is usual practice for the ESFA to pull its funding from a provider given the lowest Ofsted grade, which has often forced them to close.

And the government is still refusing to write-off loans debt for other blameless learners left with repayment demands but no courses or qualifications to show for it, following the demise of other loans-orientated providers.

Ofsted inspectors slammed the provider’s managers for their “lack understanding of their obligations” in running courses funded directly by advanced learning loans.

“They have been slow to implement quality assurance arrangements to ensure that they are providing learners with a comprehensive and high quality training programme,” today’s report said.

Activ8’s contract with the agency this year was for the delivery of advance learner loans provision and totalled £175,000, and they run no subcontracted provision.

FE Week approached the ESFA to ask if it now plans to cancel this, but a spokesperson would only say: “We are considering their [Activ8’s] Ofsted report in line with our published intervention policy.”

We have also asked Activ8 what affect having its funding pulled is likely to have on its long-term future, but the provider has not yet responded.

Today’s Ofsted report added: “Directors do not have a clear oversight of the quality of the training that Activ8 Learning provides for learners funded by advanced learner loans. They do not hold managers to account for the progress that learners make.”

Inspectors added that current governance arrangements are “ineffective”.

“As a result of the ill health of key members of the board, there has been a period of instability. Managers have identified new board members but they are yet to gain a close understanding of the provision.”

Ofsted also said that tutors at Activ8 “do not hold appropriate qualifications or have sufficient experience” to assess progress and learning “skilfully and effectively” on the early years educator programme at level three and the children and young people’s workforce programme at level five.

Activ8’s grade four follows a year of FE Week investigations into scandals involving loans funding – with the likes of John Frank Training, Edudo Ltd, and Focus Training & Development Ltd closing and leaving hundreds of blameless learners with huge debt but no qualifications – which subsequently formed part of our #SaveOurAdultEducation campaign.

One other private provider had a full Ofsted inspection report published this week: Inspire 2 Independence Ltd, which fell from a ‘good’ rating to ‘requires improvement’.

Inspectors said that directors and managers at the York-based provider have “not been successful” in sustaining the previously good standard of provision.

“Quality improvement arrangements are not sufficiently ambitious,” they added.

Meanwhile two general FE colleges were given ‘good’ ratings. One of them was Halesowen College which maintained its grade two, and the other was Burton and South Derbyshire College which improved from a previous grade three.

Governors, leaders and managers were particularly praised at Burton and South Derbyshire for taking “extensive and effective” steps to improve provision, including learners’ achievement rates and learners’ progress in a “wide range of subjects”, such as English and maths.

Regent College, a sixth form college based in Leicester, jumped from a grade three to a two this week, with its leaders and managers lauded for having “successfully improved the quality of almost all teaching and learning since the last inspection”.

It was also good news for Capita PLC, an employer provider which delivers apprenticeship programmes, traineeships and pre-employment programmes for around 6,000 adults nationwide, after it maintained its grade two.

The Wiltshire Council meanwhile was found to be making “reasonable progress” in its third re-inspection monitoring visit since December last year which found the provider to be inadequate overall.

Lastly, there were five short inspections where providers kept ‘good’ ratings. These took place at Harrow London Borough Council, Interserve Learning & Employment Ltd in Sheffield, Vector Aerospace International Limited in Hampshire, Mainstream Training Limited in Kent, and Steadfast Training Ltd in Lincolnshire.



GFE Colleges Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Halesowen College 18/09/2017 26/10/2017 2 2
Burton and South Derbyshire College 26/09/2017 20/10/2017 2 3


Sixth Form Colleges Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Regent College 19/09/2017 24/10/2017 2 3


Independent Learning Providers Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Activ8 Learning 20/09/2017 27/10/2017 4 0
Inspire 2 Independence (I2I) Ltd 12/09/2017 23/10/2017 3 2


Adult and Community Learning Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
The Wiltshire Council 04/10/2017 24/10/2017 M M


Employer providers Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Capita PLC 12/09/2017 20/10/2017 2 2


Short inspections (remains grade 2) Inspected Published
Harrow London Borough Council 27/09/2017 27/10/2017
Vector Aerospace International Limited 27/09/2017 27/10/2017
Mainstream Training Limited 19/09/2017 25/10/2017
Steadfast Training Ltd 27/09/2017 20/10/2017

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