Provider denies training learners who ‘had no choice’ in becoming apprentices

An Oldham training provider has rejected accusations from Ofsted that it was taking on apprentices who did not wish to be trained, but were forced onto the programme by employers.

Blue Training UK, previously rated good, was slapped with an inadequate ratings across the headline fields by the education watchdog following a visit last month, with inspectors criticising the provider over low achievement rates and poor teaching learning and assessment.

But the report also highlighted learner attendance on the service enterprise apprenticeship, saying: “A large majority of apprentices are not motivated to complete the programme because they did not have a choice about joining it.”

However, Blue Training head of training Tracy Jones said the company, which she founded along with Phillip Healey, did not accept Ofsted’s grading and said she had not taken Skills Funding Agency (SFA) cash to train learners who did not wish to take part.

She acknowledged some learners on the course had been put forward by their employers, but insisted 500-learner Blue Training had taken steps to ensure the learners weren’t being pushed into it.

“They go through a full induction process — it’s not a blanket thing,” she said.

“And as part of that process, they’re advised about the apprenticeship, they’re told what everything’s about, and we say to them, if you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to.

“This idea they have no choice is not right — there’s no point delivering training to people who don’t want to do it.”

She added apprentices who said they no longer wished to train had been removed from the course in the past.

“We will not train somebody who doesn’t want to be trained and we have pointed out to them if they don’t want to carry on we will stop them immediately,” she said.

She added that the 500-learner provider “would never have been party to” a situation where an employer forced their worker to take on an apprenticeship.

And, she said, even if some learners had told Ofsted they were not enjoying the course were not motivated, feedback from the programme had been “excellent”, and they would have been the minority.

“The word ‘majority’ which Ofsted uses isn’t accurate,” she said, adding she did not believe Ofsted had spoken to enough of the programmes’ learners to be representative.

Ms Jones said the Ofsted result had meant “devastation” for the company, which has been stripped of its £970,000 SFA contract.

“This Ofsted visit was completely different to any other Ofsted visit we’ve ever experienced,” she said. “It was like they came in with an agenda.”

She added: “We do not agree with the result.”

However, she said the company, which was set up in 2003, would not be appealing against the judgement.

“Our priority is to ensure learners have a smooth transition to another provider — that’s the most important thing to us now.”

An SFA spokesperson said the agency had notified Blue Training of its intention to terminate the contract.

“We will be working with employers and their learners to transfer those learners that wish to continue with their apprenticeship to other training providers,” she said.

“This is to ensure continuity of training for learners and employers and to minimise any disruptions.”

Ofsted declined to respond to Ms Jones’s comments.

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