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Please inspect us, says firm

The first law of education - thou shalt maintain an inbuilt hatred of inspectors - has been broken.

For the first time, a private training firm which receives no government funds has volunteered to be inspected by the Adult Learning Inspectorate.

The ALI sent a team of four inspectors to scrutinise the firm, Focus Training, based in Bolton, Lancashire, which trains people in the health and fitness industry.

It has contracts across the country, including more than 60 prisons where physical education instructors are taught how to train inmates to be gym instructors on release.

The inspection report, published today, gives the firm grade ones for leadership and management and exercise and fitness coaching, although it scored a more modest grade three on equality of opportunity.

The report said there were "no significant weaknesses" in the way the firm was run.

Bill Ellis, chief executive of the firm, was last at the receiving end of an ALI inspection as a lecturer at Barnsley college. This time he paid Pounds 10,000 for the privilege - which the ALI said was purely to cover its costs.

The inspectorate has set up a commercial arm to carry out similar inspections and intends Focus Training to be the first of many.

David Sherlock, chief inspector at the ALI, said: "We were delighted to be approached by Mr Ellis. Although we are now being paid to inspect training within industry and public sector bodies, this is the first time a private training provider has requested the service."

Mr Ellis said: "It is about respecting the inspectors and valuing them and being willing to learn from the inspection process.

"Training providers that receive money from the Learning and Skills Council or other government departments often see inspection as a necessary evil.

" We are not in that position. I'm a businessman and I view this as an investment in the company's future."

Having convinced the inspectors of the quality of his training, Mr Ellis is hoping to get contracts with the LSC in competition with other providers.

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