A benchmark standard for training providers has been scrapped after Government funding for the scheme was withdrawn, it has emerged.
The Training Quality Standard (TQS) "recognises and celebrates the best organisations delivering training to employers" and is awarded after evaluating their "responsiveness, flexibility, expertise and commitment to continuous improvement". To date, more than 190 colleges and training organisations have achieved the first part of the TQS.
But the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has now decided to stop funding the scheme, claiming this will give "greater autonomy" to providers, with "less direction and prescription from Government".
The move has frustrated colleges and other FE providers, which have invested heavily in meeting TQS requirements since the programme was introduced by the now closed Learning and Skills Council in 2007.
Paul Warner, director of employment and skills at the Association of Learning Providers, said: "I think the major concern is that a number of independent providers have invested a lot of time, resources and money getting the TQS. They are justifiably annoyed that they have spent so much time and money on the process.
"I think the TQS was the answer to a problem that never really existed, and it has been diverting efforts away from learners and delivering skills and employability at the front line.
"It might be a bit of a relief that it's gone. I don't think there will be any tears shed, but people won't be opening bottles of champagne."
The TQS website says the standard is "a mark for training providers to aspire to because it's tough to achieve - and through it, their performance is what really sets them apart from the competition".
It was created to help employers find the best-performing providers.
"Providers holding the standard's mark have been rigorously assessed to ensure they have the capability, the performance track record and the customer endorsement to make them a good choice for employers," the website continues.
Several FE colleges, including Calderdale, South Thames, South Nottingham and Swindon, are among those which have gained TQS accreditation this year.
A statement on the TQS website said: "The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has taken a decision to withdraw its funding of the Training Quality Standard. The Skills Funding Agency is therefore working with the certification bodies to wind down the accreditation process in light of the withdrawal of funding."
A BIS spokesman said: "The decision to cease funding of TQS is consistent with the reform strategy set out in (the strategy document) Investing in Skills for Sustainable Growth; in particular, the principle that colleges and training providers should have greater autonomy, with less direction and prescription from Government."