Provider for disadvantaged young people to close after 40 years

Plummeting student numbers has caused income to rapidly decline

Plummeting student numbers has caused income to rapidly decline

20 Oct 2022, 19:00

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A training provider that teaches hundreds of young people who have had a poor experience of school education has gone bust, due to rapidly declining income and plummeting student numbers.

Achieve Training, based in Stoke-on-Trent and formerly known as PM Training, announced this week that it will close its doors on October 31 after more than 40 years.

Around 80 employees now face losing their job and students will need to be transferred to alternative providers to complete their training.

Sinéad Butters, group chief executive of Achieve Training’s parent company Aspire Housing, said: “We understand this is a difficult and sensitive time and we are doing all we can to minimise the impact of the closure.”

The closure comes after years of falling student numbers, blamed by Achieve Training on the government’s apprenticeship and funding reforms, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic.

Its last full inspection from Ofsted, which resulted in a ‘good’ judgement, took place in 2018 when the provider had almost 2,000 students. A monitoring visit was conducted by the inspectorate during the pandemic in 2020, at which points learner numbers dropped to below 1,000.

Achieve Training’s latest published accounts for 2021 show it had around 500 young people on pre-employment programmes and just 124 apprenticeship starts in the year compared to 431 in 2019-20. The accounts show a loss of £551,729 in 2020-21 and the company’s overall turnover fell by 6.5 per cent to £7.79 million.

Achieve Training’s financial statements explain that skills funding is “now more complex, more competitive to obtain, less consistent, short-term, traditional funding sources are ending, bidding is now commonplace, employers have a bigger say, and it is increasingly focused on higher level skills and standards, which means Achieve Training’s traditional and reliable income stream is reducing”.

The independent training sector has also “seen significant regulatory changes, couple with stronger intervention and audit” which has resulted in Achieve Training being subject to financial clawback in previous years from the Education and Skills Funding Agency, according to the accounts.

Stoke-on-Trent has areas of high deprivation where the percentage of working-age people with no qualifications is substantially higher than the national rate. The unemployment rate is also higher than the national average.

A large proportion of learners who studied at Achieve Training have a “poor experience of school education and low levels of attainment, as well as multiple barriers to learning”, according to Ofsted.

Butter said: “It is with regret that I announce that Achieve Training will close on October 31, 2022, following a sustained period of financial strain.

“We understand that this is disappointing and upsetting news for many. Achieve Training has supported thousands of young people into work over the last 40 years.

“We are working with the colleagues affected to mitigate redundancy where possible and working with learners, apprentices and their employers to seek suitable alternative training providers to minimise the disruption to their learning.”

She added: “We would like to thank our colleagues for their continued and valued commitment in supporting learners and apprentices.”

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2 Comments

  1. Helen Robinson

    As a ‘Stoke lass’ who had a poor experience of school experience, I am so saddened to read this. I moved South and engaged with the FE sector to further my career prospects; ultimately working in FE/Adult Education.

  2. anonymous

    It is interesting to read another provider who deals with disadvantaged young people going to the wall. This, as well as the Lifetime article allude to funding and audit issues. The ESFA audit regime takes no account for learners poor prior attainment, attendance and level of disadvantage and the ESFA are aggressively clawing back funds where learners do not attend the actual hours that are planned. ESFA expects providers to plan smaller programmes for these young people but providers can’t then deliver the pastoral support without funding. In summary, the funding system is destroying valuable engagement and support programmes and providers. Soon there will be no alternatives to FE and 6th Forms in the 16-19 arena.