Prince's charity fluffs inspection

27th February 2004 at 00:00
But the trust has acted swiftly to address quality concerns.

Ngaio Crequer reports

The Prince's Trust - the UK charity founded to help disadvantaged young people - has been failing in its mission, inspectors have said.

The trust, with a turnover of pound;46 million, and the largest charity in which the Prince of Wales has a guiding interest, was criticised by the Adult Learning Inspectorate.

The quality of provision is not adequate to "meet the reasonable needs of those receiving it," inspectors said. "The trust's leadership and management are unsatisfactory." Quality assurance was also deemed to be unsatisfactory.

The trust, set up in 1976, gives training, mentoring and financial support to 14 to 30-year-olds. It works with further education colleges, local authority youth services, the emergency services and other private and public bodies to deliver a volunteers programme. Many activities, such as painting and decorating, or construction, are community-based. Others are aimed at building team work and developing leadership skills.

Since it was founded it has helped nearly half a million young people. Many struggled at school, were in care, had been long-term unemployed or had been in trouble with the law.

Few progress into jobs, the report found. In the past two years, less than a quarter of the trust's clients on New Deal programmes got jobs at the end of their course. Recording of clients' progress was weak and individual learning programmes were poor.

It added that staff sometimes did not have appropriate qualifications, and were unclear about their roles and the roles of those they sub-contracted to. The trust needed to improve its self-assessment procedures.

Additional help with literacy and numeracy was satisfactory, although some support staff lacked basic skills qualifications, and some posts were vacant.

David Sherlock, chief inspector of adult learning, said: "The trust has been ready to accept our findings and is keen to improve things as quickly as possible. Such is the commitment that I am confident that the report following the re-inspection will be more positive."

There will be a full re-inspection in July.

Leslie Morphy, director of programmes and policy for the trust, said that positive factors had been highlighted too, such as strong partnerships, successful work on diversity and the satisfactory teaching and learning.

The trust immediately put together an action plan, he said. "As a direct result of this, there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers going into work. For example, the number of young people in the North-east going into work after taking part in the 'Team' programme has increased by a third.

"Our absolute priority is to ensure that we deliver the best possible service and work opportunities for all our young people."

The trust was recently praised by the Office for Standards in Education for its "xl" clubs which help to tackle social or educational exclusion among 14 to 16-year-olds.

Over three years there has been a 500 per cent rise in the numbers of schoolchildren participating in the clubs. Ofsted said they provided "a very effective alternative curriculum".

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