Thousands of apprentices dumped by training provider after Ofsted inspection

More than 2,500 apprentices and adult learners have been left in the lurch after their provider immediately exited the training market following a grade four Ofsted report.

Progress to Excellence Limited (PtE), an independent learning provider established in 1997, today dropped from ‘good’ to ‘inadequate’.

The education watchdog reported that leaders’ and governors’ growth strategy to expand the curriculum “has had a negative impact on the quality of education and training that apprentices and learners receive”.

Leaders “failed” to recruit enough high-quality staff to meet the increased range of vocational programmes on offer.

“Too many” apprentices and learners have experienced “disruption to their learning because of staffing issues”, who told inspectors that they “are having a poor experience”.

Following publication of the report today, Katy Lennon, acting chief executive officer of PtE, said: “Progress to Excellence Ltd will be exiting the apprenticeship market, with immediate effect. We will also stop offering funding for courses via advanced learner loans.

“All employers and learners are being notified of this situation, and where necessary, they will be supported by ourselves and the Education and Skills Funding Agency to find suitable alternative training to support their professional development.”

It is not known if the ESFA terminated PtE’s contracts, which is typical when a private provider is rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted.

The firm declined to comment on whether it would shut down completely or if there would be any job losses. Its financial accounts showed there were 140 employees for the year ended 31 March 2018.

At the time of inspection in December, there were 2,008 apprentices, 609 adult learners and “a very small number of learners on traineeship programmes” at the Wirral-based provider.

PtE subcontracted out around 250 apprentices to four subcontractors.

Apprenticeship programmes included health and care, business and engineering and manufacturing at levels 2 to 5 while adult learners, who all used advanced learner loans to pay for their courses, studied hairdressing, beauty and fitness at level 3 and 4.

According to Ofsted, apprentices and learners were “frustrated” by how poor PtE staff “keep them informed”, and they complained that they have had “many different training and assessment officers”.

Students did “not benefit from a challenging and broad curriculum”.

While adult learners, most of whom are non-working parents, unemployed or ex-offenders, were reported as being “proud of the improvements they make and the skills they develop”, apprentices were found to be making “slow progress”.

Inspectors said apprentices and learners “are not prepared well enough for their next steps” because the advice on offer is “not impartial”. Careers advice was not “aspirational enough”.

Despite action being taken by the new chief executive after she identified a decline in quality, “too many apprentices” told Ofsted they were having “a poor experience” and about one fifth of current apprentices were beyond their planned end dates.

In 2017/18, over one third of apprentices did not achieve their apprenticeship.

The inspectorate said governors failed to hold previous senior leaders to account, apprentices were routinely not placed on the right apprenticeship and training and assessment officers do not ensure that all learners are on the correct programme.

The latter did offer developmental feedback to most learners but it was reported that they did “not support apprentices who have additional learning needs well enough.”

However, safeguarding arrangements at the provider were praised for being effective.

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    • This is what happens when no one listens to you. Concerns were raised years ago…. but no one listened. Learners not seen yet progress reviews were completed?. I feel sorry for the learners and the genuine staff that tried .You know who you are !

  1. Previous PtoE Employee

    I was forced out of this company a few years back. In my letter, I told them everything that was happening but no one took notice.
    Everything in this article was in my letter!
    When you refuse to address staff concerns about learners as well as themselves then you’re on a downward spiral.
    I said in my letter that the front door here was a revolving one. That might give my identity away. If it does – I told you so.

  2. disgusting they knew for a long time this was going to happen and still took students on and led people to believe they were going to complete
    you charge maximum amount for advance learner loans and provide a poor service Im not sure how they have been able to get away with it for so long

  3. Michael Harrison

    My wife was told today that the centre she has been studying at will close with immediate effect.

    Communication from the centre management has been non-existent.

    Does anyone know what her options to continue her course are? Will she be liable to repay loans she has taken out for a course that wasn’t completed through no fault of her own?

  4. Well I went to college yesterday to be told that the college is having to close with effect on Friday as progress to excellence has sacked all the staff at the college they have all even been told that they won’t be getting paid which is disgusting in its self, and that I won’t be able to finish my qualification even though I have done all the coursework and passed all the exams I only had six weeks left and my tutor did say, if she’d only had another two weeks with me she could of got me through because I only had a few more practicals to do, I think progress to excellence owe a lot of people and apology and a lot of money because I’ve had messages from ALL (advance learner loans ) that they have sent money to my education provider, luckily the lovely ladies who ran my college are going to try and get us put through somewhere else but progress to excellence have ruined there lives but they are strong women that will prevail

  5. keeley egan

    Myself and another staff member are almost finished with our 2 year courses. Does anyone have any advice on what happens next? Is there a government policy to protect learners and steps in place to allow us to complete with another provider?
    Thanks in advance.

  6. I am at 97% completion was informed today of closure, was advised to download all my work to find out that when i logged in i have been blocked so after many phone calls i have been told that i am not allowed my work as surprise surprise as they not been paid , i have spent hours month days completing my work which should been over 2 years in under a year to be told that i am not allowed the work that i have put the time and effort into at this time i am very angry and shocked and funny no one is available to help

    • Previous PtoE Employee

      If you contact Smart Assessor then they can download and send you a copy of all of your work. PtoE’s site access will have been blocked due to non-payment. All of your uploaded work, however, remains your property. Contact Smart Assessor directly. They should help.

      PtoE “leadership” (term used very very loosely indeed) have an awful lot to answer for. Managers making decisions who shouldn’t have been as they were completely clueless.

    • who did you contact? Ive been trying for days ans been unable to get through. They haven’t informed me yet and not been able to contact anyone. This is so frustrating- I was due to submit my final project the 26th. So upsetting

  7. Julie Kervin

    I am due to finish my level 5 I ha e had no correspondence from my tutor or emails I’m totally left in the dark to what will happen next this is shocking who do I contact about this please if I had not read this I wouldnt of known anything

  8. Anonymous

    Lots of comments about learner not being able to gain access to their work they completed.
    As someone who has had to go through this horrible process of being told i was losing my job, we as assessors were told that Progress were working with the ESFA to find new providers for our learners, this was not the case.
    It came down to assessors telling their learners when they had to cancel their appointments the company was going into administration.
    All staff worked to the bitter end, too be told that we were not getting paid for work we had done.
    We were instructed until formal notice was provided by Duff & Phelps that we were not to undertake any work or access any systems.
    On 25th Feb all staff were given formal notice that we no longer had a job as of that date.
    Onefile access was then shut down to staff, but it seems it was also shut down to the learners as well.

    Sorry you were all let down.
    If learners have any issues use pgrogress-to.EXCELLENCE@education.

  9. Any Other

    Poor management from top to bottom led to my resignation. My line manager didn’t know anything about my role and had me ask what my full job role was, shocking indeed. How can you report to someone who only cares about the spreadsheet? I saw the company was going nowhere before OFSTED. Sorry to all the learners who have suffered because of poor management…

    • Anonymous

      They had no clue about the the new standards, and were not prepared to listen to those of us who had worked with them, utterly clueless, and unconcerned about the crisis they were facing. They lies to their employees and left hundreds of people out of pocket for work they had done. They should be prosecuted.

  10. Anonymous

    I left a previous job to work for PTOE, because I was told they were an excellent and well-respected company, who treated assessors better than other companies. My experience was a nightmare! The expectation was that you would travel from one end of the country to the other, with the lowest petrol expenses of any company I have ever worked for. In the end my petrol expenses were not even covered for the journeys I was making. I was paying out of my own money to visit learners. I was given a portfolio of learners that had never been properly supported, and have previous assessors who were not qualified to deliver the qualifications. All of my learners progressed whilst I was working with them. My new learners were ahead of their required progress. I left before redundancy notices were given out, I should have been paid in full for my last working month. I was not paid, and like every other employee had to claim on the government website. I lost in excess of £500 from what I was owed. This is the second time I have lost in excess of £500 in earnings from cowboy training providers. PTOE failed to pay hundreds of their employees and left many of them in severe financial difficulties. It is a disgusting indictment of the apprenticeship system and an indictment of the Governments management of apprenticeship providers. Many talented individual assessors have been completely let down by a system that under-pays and exploits talented and highly qualified people, through cowboy employers. I feel desperately disappointed for learners, but the exploitation of assessors, is the main reason for learners are being messed around and having multiple assessors during their qualification. The demands and stress levels of assessors, The level of pay they are being given in relation to their knowledge, experience, and qualifications, the ridiculous travelling requirements, the learner caseloads that they are being given to manage are outrageous. This has been and continues to be a cash-cow for unscrupulous training providers. I have heard of very few proper training providers who are not exploiting the system and exploiting their staff and learners. This is a national scandal.
    I will never work in this sector again, and as a footnote, I was forbidden to contact any of my learners (under my contract) to explain to them what was happening. It is still going on – it needs a Government enquiry.