Ofsted watch: New apprenticeship provider censured in otherwise strong showing by FE

A new apprenticeship provider has been heavily criticised for not monitoring its subcontracted provision in what was otherwise a strong show in this week’s run of Ofsted reports.

Piper Training Ltd, the training arm of the Building Engineering Services Association, received three ‘insufficient progress’ ratings from the watchdog in its first monitoring visit since it was formed in January 2018.

Inspectors criticised the provider as its leaders have not observed any teaching in the subcontracted colleges where most of its 123 apprentices learn, and for not checking whether subcontractors’ plans for learning are clear and logical.

Leaders, and those in the role of governance, were also criticised for “concentrating too much on contractual compliance and financial and business developments”.

Training director Tony Howard said they had had ongoing issues with subcontractors not submitting enough information so Piper Training could monitor progression.

“We are working with our sub-contractors to drastically improve on their capability to report at the frequency we are requiring,” Howard added.

Inspectors did report Piper Training’s leaders understand the needs of heating and ventilation labour market, and work closely with employers to develop apprenticeship standards that are specific to the needs of the profession.

Mitre Group Ltd, which previously received two ‘insufficient progress’ ratings in its early monitoring visit and was subsequently suspended from taking on new starters in August 2018, this week received a ‘good’ full inspection.

Ofsted found that achievement rates for adults in 2017/18 were well above the rate of similar providers and tutors are well-qualified and experienced in the sports-related industries for which Mitre provides apprenticeships.

“Apprentices develop a wide range of sports coaching and training skills that they apply proficiently in schools and community settings,” inspectors added.

As the provider has now scored a grade 2, it should soon be allowed to take on new apprentices.

Birmingham City Council also fared well: moving up from a grade 3 to a grade 2.

Leaders and managers have a “clear vision” for adult learning in Birmingham, the inspectors wrote.

They paid particular praise to the provision of English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) courses, where learners make good progress and quickly learn the correct phrases to use with doctors and at their children’s school.

Nearly half of learners moved onto another course in the service to develop their skills and most of those who left the service continued into sustained employment or learning.

The Buckinghamshire College Group, which formed out of a merger between Aylesbury College and Amersham and Wycombe College in October 2017, scored three ‘significant’ and one ‘reasonable’ progress ratings in its first monitoring visit since its creation.

A new senior leadership team have implemented processes to monitor and improve progress and outcomes for students, meaning a greater proportion of students achieved their qualifications in 2017/18.

The college was found to deal effectively with poor staff performance. “If teachers are not able to improve, then they leave,” the report said.

Leaders and managers have a “very clear understanding of the quality of teaching and learning in all curriculum programmes”.

“They know where they need to target support and improvement initiatives when teaching practices are not in line with expectations,” the report added.

Dunbia, which offers a level 2 apprenticeship in butchery, earned three ‘reasonable progress’ ratings from its first monitoring visit since becoming an apprenticeship provider.

Apprentices, who were new to the butchery and meat processing environment, gain a “wide range of practical skills and understanding through the apprenticeship”.

Functional skills provision is subcontracted and the inspectors reported the majority of apprentices have achieved functional skills qualifications at level 1 in English and mathematics.

Technical Professionals Limited (TPL) achieved the same result as Dunbia from its early monitoring visit of its apprenticeship provision.

TPL was found to have prepared apprentices well for their end-point assessment, and their recruitment process is rigorous: leaders and managers ensure both apprentices and employers fully understand the apprenticeship programme.

TPL has no governing board however, and directors received insufficient information on the quality of teaching, learning and assessment.

Independent Learning Providers Inspected Published Grade Previous grade  
Piper Training Limited 15/03/2019 16/04/2019 M N/A  
Technical Professionals Limited 14/03/2019 18/04/2019 M N/A  
Mitre Group Limited 19/03/2019 18/04/2019 2 M  


Adult and Community Learning Inspected Published Grade Previous grade
Birmingham City Council 15/03/2019 15/04/2019 2 3


Employer providers Inspected Published Grade Previous grade  
Dunbia 08/03/2019 15/03/2019 M M  


GFE Colleges Inspected Published Grade Previous grade  
Buckinghamshire College Group 27/03/2019 18/04/2019 M 2  

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