National Audit Office considering Learndirect probe

Skills minister Anne Milton says funding could be clawed back if the country's largest provider is found to have not fulfilled its contract

Julia Belgutay

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The National Audit Office (NAO) is considering an investigation into Learndirect, the organisation has confirmed.

This comes after the chair of the influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said she had asked the NAO to look into the case. An spokesperson for the organisation said it was "in the process of considering whether we will investigate Learndirect".

PAC chair Meg Hillier said that she was concerned that the way Learndirect, the biggest provider in the country, had been treated was “a sign the government considers it is too big to fail, which raises wider issues about how we contract these things out".

The Department for Education's usual practice in case of providers rated inadequate by Ofsted is to give three months' notice of their Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) contracts being terminated. But the DfE last month said Learndirect's contract will end on 31 July 2018, in order to protect learners and apprentices, despite it having being rated inadequate by Ofsted.

Ms Hillier said: "If something is failing, the government needs to take action. It needs to show there are consequences, and it's a real slap in the face to providers out there doing a good job, who are rated good or excellent by Ofsted, who then see a failing provider seemingly getting away with it."

'Not untouchable'

Apprenticeships and skills minister Anne Milton told the BBC that Learndirect was “most certainly not untouchable”. "We will continue to act swiftly with Learndirect and any other provider that fails to do as their contract specifies. We will claw back from Learndirect any bit of their contract they have failed to fulfil," she added.

A spokesperson for Learndirect today said that it had made "continued progress" since the Ofsted inspection, adding: “We remain committed to working with current employers and apprentices to ensure they receive the training and skills they need to succeed.

“Our focus is on delivering the highest levels of service and outcomes and we will continue working closely with the DfE and ESFA to ensure its requirements around quality measures are met.”

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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