Ofsted has announced it is to carry out a sample of "risk-based monitoring visits to directly funded providers" to look specifically at the management and quality of subcontracted provision.
This, the letter from Ofsted's deputy director for further education and skills Paul Joyce said, was part of a new focus on subcontracted provision.
"Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector is concerned that all education and training provision should be good or better, including provision that is subcontracted. Some recent inspections have underlined that poor management of subcontracted education and training can be a key reason for poor quality provision," said Mr Joyce. "That is not to say that there is not also good quality subcontracted provision – there certainly is."
Increase in providers
"This letter is to inform you that Ofsted will be increasing its focus on the management and quality of subcontracted provision on its inspections with effect from 12 February 2018," Mr Joyce wrote.
The number of independent learning providers required to be inspected by Ofsted has increased since the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers was introduced last March.
There are now 2,577 providers on the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s (ESFA) register. Those offering apprentices at levels 2 and 3 are subject to inspection by Ofsted, but only those with active learners and those receiving levy funding will be due an inspection.
Discussions on resources 'ongoing'
A spokesman for Ofsted said: "The number of providers falling in to scope for Ofsted inspection in the further education and skills remit is increasing rapidly. We work closely with the ESFA to monitor providers that start and stop delivering education and training across all different funding streams.
"The Department for Education has acknowledged that the number of providers, and hence the number requiring inspection, is increasing. We inspect providers that receive government funding; not all providers that are approved to offer education and training provision will actually do so. Discussions with the DfE about our resourcing are ongoing."
In 2016-17, 189 providers were judged on the delivery of their apprenticeships: 6 per cent were found to be "outstanding"; 43 per cent "good"; 40 per cent "required improvement" and 11 per cent were "inadequate".
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