Ofsted watch: Major retailer ‘requires improvement’

A major retailer has failed to improve its in-house apprenticeship provision beyond a grade three, in a less than positive week for the sector.

Halfords, which delivers training to its own apprentices in retail, management and warehousing, was rated as ‘requires improvement’ across the board in a report published September 13 and based on an inspection in early August.

The employer provider’s board was deemed “slow to respond to the recommendations of the previous inspection” in 2016, which also resulted in a grade three rating, and “to recognise the subsequent decline in performance”.

Managers were criticised for “weak” planning of functional skills delivery, and for failing to improve the “quality of teaching, learning and assessment quickly enough” or to “monitor apprentices’ progress and achievements in sufficient detail for them to take swift actions for improvement”.

As a result, “too few” apprentices completed their courses on time, or improved their English and maths.

But the report noted that apprentices’ progress and achievements were improving due to “recent management changes and the appointment of new and experienced assessors”.

Another employer provider, Select Service Partner UK Limited, also received a grade three this week – down from its previous grade two – in a report published September 13 and based on an inspection in early August.

Senior leaders at the firm, which operates catering and retail outlets in airports and train stations, were found to have “limited understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the apprenticeship programme” and to have failed to “recognise that for too long, too few apprentices have completed their qualification”.

And workplace managers “do not involve themselves sufficiently in the planning and coordination of training”, and “as a result too many apprentices make slow progress”, the report said.

But inspectors also found that: “Apprentices develop good technical skills and knowledge because well-qualified trainer assessors match learning closely to apprentices’ individual job roles”.

Adult and community learning provider Blackpool Unitary Authority also dropped from ‘good’ to ‘requires improvement’, in a report published September 8 and based on an inspection carried out at the end of June.

Tutors at the provider, which delivers mainly non-accredited courses, were criticised for not setting “sufficiently challenging targets on non-accredited courses to ensure that learners make the progress of which they are capable”, while learners were not given “useful and appropriate guidance” to help them to move on to other learning or work.

Learners’ attendance on the majority of courses was found to be “too low”.

But learners on accredited courses “progress well and achieve their qualifications”, the report said.

As previously reported by FE Week, community learning provider North Liverpool Regeneration Company Limited dropped two grades from good to inadequate in a report published September 8, and based on an inspection at the end of June.

The provider, which delivers apprenticeships in construction and childcare, was slammed as having “no strengths”.

Among the failing identified in the report were “ineffective” safeguarding, “poor” monitoring of subcontractors and the “large majority” of apprentices not being employed – “which is a key principle of being an apprentice”.

“Leaders and managers have failed to maintain the strengths and address the key areas for improvement identified at the previous inspection, leading to a decline in the standards of education and training,” the report said.


Employer providers Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Halfords 11/08/2017 13/09/2017 3 3
Select Service Partner UK Limited 11/08/2017 13/09/2017 3 2


Adult and Community Learning Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
North Liverpool Regeneration Company Ltd 04/07/2017 08/09/2017 4 2
Blackpool Unitary Authority 05/07/2017 08/09/2017 3 2



Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.