The government has agreed to fund the inspection of all new apprenticeship training providers.
The Department for Education will provide Ofsted with the funding it needs to carry out monitoring visits of all new training providers entering the apprenticeships sector.
The inspectorate will also now return within a year to new providers that it deems to have made "insufficient progress" at their first monitoring visit to carry out a full inspection.
Following the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April 2017, there has been a significant increase in the number of new providers entering the apprenticeship training market. Ofsted had warned the DfE it would need extra resources to carry out the extra inspections.
'Important extra reassurance on quality'
Speaking today, Ofsted's deputy director for further education and skills, Paul Joyce, said: “The additional funding confirmed today will allow us to extend our monitoring visits of new apprenticeship provision to all new entrants to the sector.
"We believe this will provide important extra reassurance on quality of provision for all those taking up apprenticeships.
“Where providers are judged to be making insufficient progress on their monitoring visit we will now usually return within six to 12 months to undertake a full inspection. Our inspection handbook will be updated shortly to reflect those changes.“
According to the latest data from Ofsted, as of 31 August 2018 there were 1,683 providers in receipt of government funding, up from 1,166 a year earlier. At present there are 651 providers that have not yet been inspected, compared to just 121 a year ago.
'Cowboys, sharks and bottom-feeders'
In October 2017, Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman told the Commons Education Select Committee the inspectorate needed extra funding to ensure the levy did not result in “another Train to Gain”.
The programme, created by the previous Labour government, ran from 2006 to 2010. A 2009 report by the National Audit Office concluded that it had “not provided good value for money”, and more than half of the funding ended up being spent on training that would have occurred without it.
Ms Spielman said: “We also know that whenever a giant tap of money turns on...You get some really good people doing good things. But you also get some cowboys, some sharks, some bottom-feeders. We saw that with Train to Gain, and we don’t want the apprenticeship policy becoming another Train to Gain.
'Speed up the process'
In March 2017, prior to the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, the Education and Skills Funding Agency set up the register of apprenticeship training providers (RoATP). There are currently 2,208 main or employer providers on RoATP.
In February, Mr Joyce told Tes that inspectors would not be visiting all these providers. “The fact that they come on to a register doesn’t automatically mean that they will need inspecting. They may not draw funds to deliver provision, so it’s a complicated picture,” he said.
Simon Ashworth, chief policy officer at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers welcomed the news.
He said: "There are plenty of organisations on the register who have not received a visit and so it’s really good that Ofsted now has the resource to speed up the process."