Security guards face losing licences after fraudulent training exposé

Pressure mounts on regulators to toughen up on malpractice

Pressure mounts on regulators to toughen up on malpractice

More security guards could have their work licences revoked after a new undercover investigation found fraudulent training.

A BBC exposé this week revealed how two London-based training providers offered shortened courses for a higher fee, forged timesheets and, at one, taught ways to “kill and be killed”.

The awarding organisations for the training providers have now suspended their recognition while a full investigation is carried out with qualifications regulator Ofqual and the Security Industry Authority.

The SIA, which holds the power to revoke licences from qualified security guards, said parts of the undercover footage recorded by the BBC indicate criminality and it has been passed to the Metropolitan Police.

The news comes eight years after a BBC investigation revealed how another London-based training provider was fraudulently handing out security guard qualifications, with staff offering to sit exams for learners. It led to more than 100 security guard licences being revoked.

The awarding bodies involved in the latest investigation, which have the power to revoke qualifications awarded but not licences, defended their quality assurance processes for providers that they approve. These include frequent, unannounced inspection visits.

‘We must stamp out the minority of unscrupulous providers’

The BBC approached 12 companies offering level 2 SIA door supervisor courses for between £200 and £300. Its report said four offered shortened courses ranging from a day and a half to three days. The course has a mandatory length of six days.

Two training providers were named in the investigation: Ilford-based Caetop College and Steps Institution, which is based in east London.

An undercover reporter attending Steps Institution was told he could begin his training on day five of the six-day course if he paid an extra £310 – missing compulsory modules in first aid, conflict management and door supervision. 

The provider allegedly told him to forge timesheets for the full course. He also joined a “physical intervention” session, which was not a mandatory part of the course, where a trainer was recorded teaching attendees ways to “kill and be killed”, including by using “one punch”.

Awarding body BIIAB Qualifications, which is part of the Skills and Education Group, has suspended Steps Institution from using its qualifications “pending investigation”. Steps Institution has registered 49 learners with the awarding body.

Scott Forbes, chief operating officer for development and delivery at the Skills and Education Group, said it was “important that we strengthen the collaboration between awarding organisations and share greater intelligence in order to stamp out the minority of unscrupulous providers”.

Laser Awards, another awarding body that has Steps Institution as an approved provider, said it “takes all allegations of malpractice and maladministration seriously” and is carrying out a “full investigation”.

A spokesperson added: “Through ongoing quality assurance activity, we carry out regular unannounced inspection visits and scheduled quality visits to all centres delivering our qualifications in this sector and we carry out investigations where concerns are raised, which lead to the withdrawal of our approval to deliver qualifications where we are not satisfied that the training centre and/or individual trainer is upholding the standards we require.”

Steps Institution declined to comment.

At Caetop College, the undercover reporter was only offered a three-day training course rather than the full six days. He was allegedly coached on a test that he should have completed after a day of first-aid training, before being told his “first aid is finished now”.

On the third day, the BBC said the reporter sat a final exam without questions. Instead, the trainees were given answer sheets and told what option to circle. They were also told to vary their answers sometimes so that their test papers were not identical.

Awarding body Pearson has suspended Caetop College from using its certificates and signing up new students while it is under investigation.

A spokesperson for Pearson said it takes all allegations of malpractice “extremely seriously” and sanctions could include “debarring individuals from involvement in the delivery of our qualifications and withdrawing approval for a training provider to deliver Pearson qualifications”.

Caetop College claimed it does not offer any security guard courses when approached for comment by FE Week. The firm’s website was taken down at the time of going to press.

The SIA said: “Where qualifications that have been awarded by the awarding organisations are shown to be unsound and are withdrawn, it will result in the suspension of a licence.”

Asked by FE Week what action had been taken to root out fraud in security guard training over the past eight years, the SIA said it conducts its own unannounced visits to training providers – 200 of them since 2022. This has led to three providers being shut down.

A spokesperson added that, in the last financial year, over 170,000 qualifications were awarded. Of those, 70 cases concerning training were raised, 44 were against training companies and 26 were regarding allegations of individual malpractice.

Ofqual said it introduced additional controls following the 2015 exposé that order awarding organisations to suspend or terminate their relationships with providers accused of, or found to be committing, malpractice.  

The regulator has also “improved the way it gathers and shares information about suspected fraud or malpractice across the sector”.

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One comment

  1. Will Joseph Doherty

    I fully support the clampdown. In my own experience how do you reconcile Higher Apprenticeship providers delivering programmes that IfATE Standards defined / planned for as 36 months on programme delivering in 12 months ? Delivering the HR L7 Higher Level Apprenticeship in 12 months suggests quantity over quality – I suggest some HE institutions take note before your next Ofsted Visit !