Provider sues DfE after skills bootcamp contract termination

The DfE accuses the provider of changing awarding body without prior agreement

The DfE accuses the provider of changing awarding body without prior agreement

A training provider is suing the Department for Education after its skills bootcamp funding was terminated due to an alleged breach of contract.

East London-based Feligrace Ltd took about 30 students through a 16-week bootcamp in railway engineering before the department ended its contract early in March last year.

Feligrace claims the DfE owes it £617,000 in unpaid fees, loss of earnings and being prevented from applying for new tenders after the department labelled it a “high-risk provider”.

But alongside its defence, the department has counter-claimed it is owed £74,000 in fees because the training company “fraudulently misrepresented” that it had City & Guilds accreditation in its February 26 2022 bid, despite losing the awarding body’s approval six weeks earlier.

Although Feligrace delivered a level 3 course in rail engineering in traction and rolling stock, as agreed in the skills bootcamp contract, it was accredited by Excellence, Achievement & Learning (EAL).

This meant the company made “false” representations by claiming it would be accredited by City & Guilds, the department argues.

About 30 learners are understood to have completed the training by the time the contract was terminated, with a further 70 signed up to start in 2023.

Owned by Odaro Omoregie, Feligrace is a training provider and care agency based in an industrial estate in Barking, east London, which has been providing publicly funded courses through the Education and Skills Funding (ESFA) since 2017.

“Devastating” impact of losing the contract

Omoregie told FE Week he is taking legal action to “put things right” and hold the DfE accountable.

He added: “The impact of losing the contract has been devastating, I’ve let two staff go and it has led to some financial challenges. We were trying to build back up after the impact of Covid on our training programmes. It’s an existential threat at the moment.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education refused to comment when asked whether it had offered the learners any support after cancelling the course at short notice.

Feligrace claims the DfE’s “contract manager” approved the change in awarding body “in writing” a month after the contract started in August 2022. It says this did not need formal approval as it was a “minor change to the contract necessary to reflect operational and administrative procedures”.

Feligrace said that before the DfE terminated the contract, the same manager agreed to fund an additional EAL-accredited level 2 rail engineering skills bootcamp.

But the department insists that the change of accreditation was “never accepted” and argues that this was a “fundamental change to the nature of services” that should have been agreed under the “change control procedure” in the contract.

Two companies at the same address

Omoregie also owns a company called London College for Technical and Vocational Education (LCTVE) which operates from the same Barking office address and had a turnover of £749,000 in 2022.

Both companies appear to offer similar courses, such as functional skills, employability and railway maintenance.

While the DfE alleges that City & Guilds withdrew Feligrace’s approval over concerns about LCTVE operating as a “sub-site” at the same address, Omoregie claims the disagreement was related to an outstanding “minimum spend” invoice of just under £5,000.

According to the court documents, Omoregie was “unwilling” to pay the awarding body’s invoice to Feligrace because it related to a period when the company’s trading was impacted by the “Covid-19 pandemic”.

In its court documents, the department also raised concerns that Feligrace is unable to show proof that learners had interviews with employers or obtained Personal Track Safety (PTS) licences, both requirements of the contract. Feligrace disputes this.

Feligrace also had a railway track operative skills bootcamp contract worth up to £858,000 with Greater London Authority (GLA), which was signed off in August 2023.

The GLA’s website lists Feligrace as its skills bootcamp provider for railway track operative courses.

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