‘Serious’ sexual abuse concerns found at armed forces subcontractor

The provider has now been suspended from delivering in-person teaching

The provider has now been suspended from delivering in-person teaching

16 Jan 2023, 14:00

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An armed forces training centre for young people has been suspended from delivering in-person teaching by its subcontracting partner after “serious” sexual abuse concerns were found.

Ofsted has reported that too many female learners at QPD Forces Preparation College Doncaster “do not feel safe” and have “little confidence” that staff take seriously or address their complaints about harassment from their male peers.

Learners feel that the issues leading to their complaints are “too easily excused or dismissed” while cases of bullying are seen by some students as “banter”.

Ofsted published the findings today in a safeguarding monitoring visit report for prime training provider Aspire-Igen Group Ltd, which subcontracts with QPD Doncaster to train almost 40 learners aged 16 to 18 on government-funded study programmes.

The courses on offer at QPD Doncaster prepare young people for a career in the military.

Ofsted criticised Aspire-Igen for failing to ensure effective oversight of QPD Doncaster. Inspectors found that despite holding frequent meetings to discuss safeguarding, Apire’s leaders are “not aware of the serious safeguarding concerns that a number of learners have raised”.

A spokesperson for Aspire-Igen said the provider has taken the decision to immediately suspend direct delivery at QDP Doncaster, with learners working remotely.

“An investigation has been carried out and liaison with Doncaster Council has been undertaken,” the spokesperson told FE Week, adding that safeguarding of all learners is “our paramount concern”.

Ofsted has placed a bigger focus on investigating sexual misconduct at schools, colleges and training providers following the Everyone’s Invited revelations of widespread sexual abuse in education settings, which came to prominence in spring 2020.

Since full inspections resumed in September 2021, inspectors have been reviewing providers’ sexual abuse records and looking at how providers handle related incidents. Learners are also now spoken with in single-sex groups during inspections.

Ofsted said that staff at QPD Doncaster “do not take concerns seriously and do not deal with them swiftly or appropriately”, and nor do they “record allegations or incidents clearly enough and do not indicate well enough how issues have been resolved”.

Leaders and managers also do not ensure that learners are safe from bullying at QPD Doncaster. Inspectors found that “too many learners do not have a good understanding of what constitutes bullying” and the attempts of staff to educate learners are “in reaction to incidents, rather than proactive”.

“As a result, learners do not take bullying seriously enough, seeing it as ‘banter’ rather than as inappropriate or harmful behaviour,” today’s report said.

Ofsted also criticised QPD’s leaders and managers for not doing enough to protect learners from the “dangers of radicalisation and extremism”, adding that “too many” students have “very little understanding of the risks that they face”.

The watchdog said that while leaders at QPD have appropriate safeguarding policies and procedures in place, with a clear reporting process, staff “do not follow these procedures well enough and, too often, do not pass on important information to the designated safeguarding lead”.

Inspectors also found that leaders do not have effective oversight of whether appropriate safe recruitment practices are implemented, such as whether staff have the right to work in the United Kingdom or whether the children’s barred list has been checked.

A QPD spokesperson said: “We at QPD, have worked hard with Aspire-igen to investigate the safeguarding concerns raised at QPD Doncaster.

“As a result of this staff have received further safeguarding and de-escalation training to ensure no learner would feel unsafe at QPD. We will continue to support our learners by providing remote delivery for them to stay safe and achieve their goals.”

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  1. I have the emails, I told Igen about everything but they did an investigation around 2 weeks before Ofstead and turned a blind eye and said everything is ran absolutely fine and they are not concerned for the students welfares.