An apprenticeship provider that trains just five apprentices has been judged ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted after inspectors found tutors offering no direct vocational teaching.
Astro Martin Ltd, based in Croydon, began offering the level 2 customer service practitioner apprenticeship to a single employer in Oldham in February 2022.
But inspectors, who conducted a full inspection of the firm in October, found that leaders started teaching the course “without having the staffing expertise to do this effectively”.
The provider was dealt the lowest possible rating from the watchdog in a report published today, which said apprentices are “left too much to their own devices to complete their apprenticeship”.
Tutors require apprentices to complete their apprenticeship through workbooks, which they check at monthly intervals, but they “do not do any direct in-person or online teaching of the vocational aspects of the course” and do not “provide apprentices with feedback on their work”.
“This results in apprentices not knowing what they need to do to improve, or knowing whether they are meeting the standard necessary to pass the end-point assessment,” the report said.
Tutors do, however, support apprentices “well” to achieve qualifications in English and maths and to “prepare for their next career step”.
‘Leaders do not know what actions they need to take to improve’
Companies House shows that Astro Martin Ltd was incorporated in 2013. Its website claims the firm “specialises” in work-based training and vocational qualifications, and has a “proven track record of successfully delivering quality training and development to organisations and individuals”.
Ofsted’s report said leaders and managers have an “overly positive view” of the quality of their provision and are “not evaluative enough in their self-assessment”.
Leaders were criticised for failing to work with employers to make sure that what apprentices learn in off-the job training aligns adequately with their job roles.
Tutors also do not liaise with the apprentices’ employer to “plan the training so that it meets the needs of the employer”.
Instead, they rely on workbooks that are based on the order in which the knowledge, skills, and behaviours are listed in the apprenticeship standard – they “do not adjust this to suit the employer’s or apprentices’ needs”.
There is also “little or no alignment of the training that apprentices complete with the activities that they do as part of their job”, leaving apprentices with “limited ability to apply what they have learned in the workplace and ensure that their knowledge is secure”.
Ofsted criticised tutors for requiring all apprentices to work through the same series of workbooks in the same order, regardless of the prior knowledge or skills they have.
“This contributes to apprentices making slow progress and lacking the motivation to complete their course,” inspectors warned.
The report said leaders “do not have any external oversight of the quality of their provision to help them to have an objective view,” adding that this “means there is no challenge to leaders and managers on the quality of the apprenticeship programme”.
“Leaders do not know what actions they need to take to improve,” the report concluded.
The Education and Skills Funding Agency typically terminates the funding contracts for independent training providers if they receive a grade four from Ofsted.
Astro Martin Ltd did not respond to requests for comment.