Ofsted watch: Loans-funded provider branded ‘inadequate’

A loans-funded independent provider has received the lowest possible rating in its first ever inspection this week.

And two apprenticeship providers have been found to be making ‘reasonable progress’ in all themes under review in early monitoring visits, in the only other reports published in the last seven days.

Darlington-based Elms Associates Limited was rated grade four overall and in three out of four headline fields in a report published August 30 and based on an inspection in early July.

Leaders, managers and staff were found to lack “high enough expectations of learners”, with the result that “too many” made slow progress or dropped out altogether and “only a minority” passed their courses.

“Too many” learners failed to fulfil their potential – in part because of teaching, learning and assessment that relied “too heavily on undirected online searches to find information” or “on assessors providing answers for learners to rewrite in their own words”.

Elms Associates’ “very small” senior management team “also acts in a governance role,” the report said.

However, “the team has not had sufficient capacity to plan new strategic direction effectively or to offer sufficient challenge and support to improve outcomes for learners and address longstanding poor practice in teaching, learning and assessment”.

The provider had 27 adult learners on loans-funded courses at the time of inspection, of which 20 were on level three courses.

However, this provision only makes up “a small part” of its overall offer, with the majority made up of delivering apprenticeships on a subcontracting basis – provision that was “out of scope for this inspection”.

The provider has been approached for a comment.

KnowledgeBrief Limited was found to be making reasonable progress in all three themes under review in a report published August 29 and based on a monitoring visit in late July.

The London-based independent provider offers management training to levy-paying employers, and was new to apprenticeships when it secured a place on the register of apprenticeship training providers in May 2017.

Directors “aspire to be an outstanding provider of leadership and management training” and have “successfully adapted their commercial training offer to meet the requirements of the apprenticeship standards”.

Apprentices were found to be “highly motivated” and to “enjoy their learning and development”.

“Staff plan the apprenticeship programmes skilfully, taking careful account of apprentices’ job roles, employment circumstances and entitlement to off-the-job training,” the report.

Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust was also found to be making reasonable progress in all areas in a report published August 31 and based on a monitoring visit in late July.

The employer provider, which began directly training its own apprentices in 2016/17 before making it onto RoATP in May 2017, had 308 apprentices from across the eight hospitals that make up the trust at the time of the visit.

Directors and senior managers were “committed to ensuring that learners receive high-quality education and training”, according to inspectors.

Their planning of the apprenticeship programmes was found to be “good”, and a 12-week pre-apprenticeship programme “very helpful” in preparing apprentices “for their job role and the demands of the apprenticeship programme”.


Independent Learning ProvidersInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
Elms Associates Limited10/07/201830/08/20184
KnowledgeBrief Limited25/07/201829/08/2018MM


Employer providersInspectedPublishedGradePrevious grade
Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust25/07/201831/08/2018MM

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