Public Accounts Committee calls for evidence ahead of Learndirect hearing

UPDATE: The PAC has confirmed this hearing will start from 4pm on Monday January 15, and confirmed the witnesses will include Amanda Spielman, Andy Palmer, Peter Lauener, and Jonathan Slater

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has today said they want to hear the views of people that “had a problem with Learndirect” or those concerned about the provision they received.

The plea from the influential group of MPs follows a National Audit Office (NAO) investigation into the circumstances surrounding the monitoring, inspection and funding of the nation’s biggest FE provider.

Written evidence will need to be submitted online to the PAC here, by midday on Tuesday 9 January 2018.

Evidence is needed quickly because, as revealed exclusively by FE Week last month, the PAC will hold an inquiry hearing on Monday 15 January to “examine the funding of Learndirect Ltd”.

The PAC says: “On 13 March 2017, after a failed attempt by Learndirect to sell its apprenticeships business, ESFA issued the company with a Notice of Serious Breach, citing falling standards in apprenticeship provision. Ofsted performed a full inspection on 20–23 March 2017 and concluded that the company’s provision was inadequate.

“Learndirect attempted to challenge the decision legally, but failed. It will receive no further ESFA funding from July 2018 onwards, but is due to make £95 million from ESFA during the 2017–18 financial year.

“As well as the cost implications, there are concerns about the number of learners affected by inadequate provision and by the possible gap following the removal of funding of Learndirect.

“We will ask representatives from the Department for Education, ESFA, Ofsted and Learndirect how provision was allowed to slip, whether the Government could have done more to save money and better monitor their contracts with Learndirect, and what will be done to ensure that the removal of funding from Learndirect does not leave apprentices and others without courses.”

As previously reported by FE Week, it is understood that witnesses to be called to the hearing will include Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman, Learndirect boss Andy Palmer, former ESFA chief Peter Lauener, and the Department for Education’s permanent secretary, Jonathan Slater.

The NAO began their investigation after Meg Hillier MP (pictured), the chair of the PAC, referred the matter to them last September.

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