A private training provider has become the first FE institution to be rated "inadequate" under Ofsted’s new framework.
Mercia Partnership (UK) Ltd was judged to be "inadequate" in five categories: quality of education; behaviour and attitudes; personal development; leadership and management; and apprenticeships. It was graded "requires improvement" for its adult learning programmes.
On its previous inspection in November 2015, it was rated "good". The provider delivers training to 147 apprentices and 51 adult learners, and has two centres: one in Chorley, Lancashire, and one in Newhaven, East Sussex. As of 2017-18, Mercia provided training across 79 different local authorities. More than half of this provision was in health, public services and care.
'Unhappy, unmotivated and very angry'
The report is damning about apprenticeship provision, and says that apprentices are "unhappy, unmotivated, and, in some cases, very angry about the quality of their training".
It also says that apprentices are let down by poor careers guidance and are ill-prepared for work, with many facing redundancy or extensive periods of time on a lower wage.
The report says: “Learners and apprentices do not experience a well-planned programme of study. They only have access to a narrow curriculum that does not prepare them sufficiently for their future careers.
"Apprentices do not develop new knowledge, skills and behaviours quickly enough. Assessors focus on the assessment of what apprentices already knew and could do before they started their programme.
"Apprentices receive a poor standard of training. Frequent changes of apprentices’ assessors leave apprentices with significant gaps in their training programme. Apprentices are overly reliant on observing other colleagues in the workplace to help them develop confidence in crucial customer-facing skills. Apprentices studying on frameworks or standards are unhappy, unmotivated, and, in some cases, very angry about the quality of their training."
First batch of reports
The watchdog also says the provider's management failed to select, develop and implement a curriculum that addresses specific gaps in learners’ and apprentices’ knowledge and skills.
The report says: “Leaders do not have oversight of staff expertise, and fail to provide appropriate training and development. High staff turnover has had a negative impact on apprentices’ learning. Apprentices are rightly concerned about their prospects.”
Ofsted does, however, say that the arrangements for safeguarding at the provider are effective, and that the appropriate policies and procedures are in place.
The report is one of 13 reports of FE providers published today by Ofsted. All of them have been inspected under the new framework, which came into force at the beginning of September.
Mercia Partnership has been contacted for comment.