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Ofsted Seeks to Make Oversight of Subcontractors More Comprehensive and Transparent

Ofsted has published new research looking at subcontractors in the further education and skills sector.

New research by Ofsted finds that subcontractors in the further education and skills (FES) sector often have overall control of the day-to-day quality of a learner’s education and training. However, directly-funded providers do not always exert enough influence to manage the subcontracted provision well. For example, they might not have the necessary subject or industry expertise to review provision meaningfully.

The research also found that the current approach to inspection means that some subcontractors are visited more than once, while others are not visited at all.

While Ofsted is not funded to directly inspect subcontractors, the research proposes a more comprehensive and transparent approach to improve oversight.

The report, ‘Subcontracting in further education and skills’, recognises the acute economic challenges FES providers are facing as a result of COVID-19, as well as the broader decline in subcontracted provision over recent years. It explores what makes for high-quality FES provision delivered through subcontracting and asks how inspection and regulation might need to adapt as a result of a rapidly evolving landscape.

Ofsted is responsible for inspecting the quality of education offered by directly-funded FES providers, but inspectors do not report on all subcontracted provision. However, the inspectorate has increased its focus on subcontracting over the past 2 years, in response to concerns about the quality of some subcontractors.

Currently, Ofsted inspections give a rounded judgement of a directly- funded provider by sampling activities across the provision. The choice of subcontractors to sample is made within practical constraints, such as their location. These activities then inform the leadership and management judgement of the directly- funded provider and, where appropriate, the quality of education judgement.

The report suggests there are limitations to this approach and concludes that the oversight of subcontracted education could be improved by sampling more subcontracted provision. Therefore, Ofsted is seeking to make inspecting and reporting on subcontracted provision more comprehensive and transparent by:

  • working with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to improve access to timely and accurate data on the number and size of subcontracting arrangements held by a directly-funded provider
  • increasing awareness among inspectors of Ofsted’s available inspection resource, in order to investigate more subcontractors
  • changing the way evidence is recorded to systematically and consistently include information about all subcontractors visited
  • where appropriate, highlighting more subcontractors in inspection reports

In particular, more accurate data from the ESFA would allow Ofsted to arrange to visit subcontracted provision that was far away, because out-of-region resources could be factored into planning.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, said:

The financial stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic and ESFA’s tighter regulations around subcontracting make this an important and timely report. Over the past two years we have increased our focus on the management of subcontracted provision. However, this new research has highlighted the importance of reviewing subcontractors within our current model.

We are open to exploring how we could directly inspect subcontractors in the future, but that would need significantly more financial resource and better data. So, for now we will continue to inspect subcontractors as part of our inspections of directly-funded providers. But I’m confident that the changes set out in today’s report will make our oversight more meaningful and transparent.

The report is based on visits to 14 subcontractors in November and December last year; focus groups with 38 inspectors; and desk-based analysis of inspection reports and evidence bases, as well as other publicly available data on subcontracting.

End to ESFA Funding Subcontracting Brokers

Article by Billy Camden published in FE WEEK

Using brokers in subcontracting deals will be a “serious breach” of funding rules next year, the government said today as it announced the first steps to clamping down on subcontracting in FE.

Training providers have also been told to publish a “rationale” for subcontracting, their management fee structure and a list of subcontracting partners on their websites by October 31.

The measures were outlined in new subcontracting guidance for 2020/21, published today by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Last month, the ESFA released its response to a consultation that was run earlier this year and proposed major changes to subcontracting.

The agency wants to see a “significant reduction” of the practice in FE and will roll out strict measures, such as volume caps, over the next three years.

For academic year 2020/21, the ESFA said today that the use of brokers to source a subcontracting partner is “not permitted and will be treated as a breach of contract/funding agreement”.

“By brokers we mean where a third-party matches, for a fee, a provider with an unused allocation with a provider that can secure enrolments of learners to utilise it,” the agency explained, adding that they have “strengthened our levers to act and will do so where we find cases of provision being subject to brokerage”.

FE Week has reported on multiple cases of brokers cashing in on last minute subcontracting deals in recent years.

In March we revealed on how a learner find firm was attempting to broker a subcontracting deal for 16 to 18-year-old trainees who had already completed their placement at football clubs.

The only other change coming into force next year is a requirement for “all providers to publish a clear educational rationale for their subcontracting position on their website alongside their management fee structure and a list of subcontracting partners”.

The guidance states that directly funded institutions should “set out in their organisation’s strategic aims their reason for subcontracting, which must enhance the quality of their student offer”. The rationale “should be signed off by governors and boards and published on their website”.

The ESFA said they expect this information to be published by 31 October 2020 and it should be “easy to navigate to from the front page of the organisation’s education and training web pages”.

Other reforms will be introduced in 2022 and 2023.

ESFA Reveals Covid Financial Support Offer for 16-19 Private Training Providers

Private training providers whose recruitment of 16 to 19 students has been “limited” due to Covid-19 have been offered financial support to ease budget pressures.

From 22nd June 2020, independent learning providers (ILPs) can make a business case to the Education and Skills Funding Agency to prevent clawback of any underperformance they have experienced for this group of learners.

The ESFA said:

“ILPs may be recruiting fewer part-time students than they would normally recruit between March 2020 to July 2020.

“This will impact on the level of funding that these students would usually attract and will result in clawback of funds for 2019 to 2020.

“The ESFA will support ILPs whose recruitment of students, to a 16 to 19 study programme, have been limited due to the lockdown situation and who have faced clawback for under performance.”

For approved cases, the ESFA said it will base the expected delivery in March to July on the previous year’s delivery for students recruited between 1 March 2019 and 31 July 2019, taking up to half of this into account.

In addition, the agency will “add the actual delivery for students recruited between March 2020 and July 2020, up to a maximum of 100 per cent of the 2018 to 2019 funded delivery for March 2019 to July 2019”.

No clawback relief will be possible if the cash delivery in 2019 to 2020 exceeds the cash delivery in 2018 to 2019 for the period from 1 March to 31 July for each year.

The ESFA added that to further support ILPs, they are extending the clawback period to include January 2021 to March 2021.

“The clawback that is planned for July 2020 will be included into the re-profiling, from August 2020 to March 2021. This does not need to be requested and will be shown in the R10 reconciliation statement.

“There may be a small number of exceptions where a risk to ESFA and public funds is identified. In these instances, we cannot delay July 2020 clawback, but we will extend the clawback profile until March 2021.”

The ESFA made clear this funding support is a “one-off” in response to the unexpected disruption caused by the arrival of coronavirus and ILPs should “not expect this to be repeated in future”.

ILPs making a business should also “not seek” support from government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to furlough staff whose salaries are paid from continuing ESFA or any other public income.

“ILPs submitting a business case must demonstrate they have not received support from the CJRS to furlough staff involved in the continued direct delivery of provision remotely of 16 to 19 study programmes and where possible recruitment of 16 to 19 students between March 2020 to July 2020,” the ESFA said.

“The Department for Education is considering appropriate measures to monitor use of claims from CJRS in order to detect any duplication of public funding and will be considering potential options to recover misused public funding as required.”

Furloughed Employees in the Training Sector Have Their Say
May 4, 2020
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By GPRS Recruitment.

GPRS Recruitment

We’ve all been unable to escape the word ‘furlough’ over the past few weeks – a term many of us were not even familiar with before this crisis. Simply put, the government’s furlough scheme guarantees employees who have stopped working during the coronavirus pandemic 80% of their wage (with exceptions).

Fortunately, only 30% of candidates who responded to our survey said that they have been furloughed.

The Financial Times reported at the start of April that up to half of companies in the UK were furloughing their staff (https://www.ft.com/content/8e2…85-a9bf-78deeb94bc80), so the training sector appears to be more active than other industries, with most staff still working, albeit remotely.

53% of staff in the sector who have been furloughed agreed with the decision to furlough them, acknowledging that it would be impossible for them to perform their role remotely. In terms of training staff, there are of course some fields in which trainers are unable to deliver remotely, namely the more ‘hands on’ qualifications such as hairdressing and construction.

A further 14% of furloughed candidates, when asked if they felt it was necessary for them to be furloughed, selected ‘other’ and offered comments such as ‘learners [being] unavailable’ due to their own work being disrupted, ‘client demand lowered and there were many cancellations’, and delivering remotely being ‘impossible with a young child’. In addition to simply whether a qualification can be delivered remotely or not, there are a wealth of other factors that have been considered when the decision has been made to furlough or not.

Indeed, only one third of those that told us they have been furloughed described themselves as trainers, with the majority of furloughed employees identifying themselves as management or admin staff. With apprenticeships still continuing where possible, and apprentices still being able to continue with their qualification if they have been furloughed themselves, for most training staff there is still work available, and happily, for many training providers furlough is a last resort.

*The survey was conducted between 6th and 10th April 2020. The survey had 1,598 responses.*

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Financial Support for Education, Early Years and Children’s Social Care

Adult education and apprenticeship funded training providers “may be eligible for support” in line with the Cabinet Office’s supplier relief rules that allow payment in advance of delivery, the Department for Education has said.

In new guidance, the DfE wrote:

“Where a provider receives adult education budget (AEB), or apprenticeship funding, as part of a direct contract for services with ESFA, and is at risk financially, they may be eligible for support (subject to meeting additional criteria) as part of DfE’s response to the Cabinet Office’s Procurement Policy Note 02/20.

“Support provided through that mechanism would count as public funding for the purposes of conditions covering the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.”

The DfE’s guidance states that “further guidance on the operation of any supplier relief scheme for providers funded under a contract for services with ESFA will be published when available”.

Providers “should email ESFA.PPN220Queries@education.gov.uk to register their interest in the scheme”.

Full Guidance Link

Education and Training Staff in Independent Training Providers – DfE Wants to Hear From You!

The Department for Education (DfE) recognises the vital role the workforce plays and has commissioned the Education and Training Professionals (ETP) survey to help build their understanding of the workforce and the issues it faces.

  • The further education sector is exceptionally important in developing a skilled workforce and ensuring everyone has the opportunity to achieve their potential.
  • In this survey, DfE wants to hear from sixth form colleges, independent training providers and adult and community learning providers.
  • This work is being carried out on behalf of the DfE by IFF Research, an independent research company. IFF Research has developed the survey with support from the Sixth Form College Association (SFCA), the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) and HOLEX.
  • The first phase of research is running throughout summer and autumn 2019, with reporting in early 2020.

Find out more about the survey here: http://ow.ly/PNHy50w6Cgf

Re-Applying for RoATP
May 9, 2019
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You will need to update your contact details in Bravo to make sure you receive an invitation to re-apply for the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers.

 

https://education.bravosolution.co.uk/web/login.shtml

Employment Rate at New Record High
July 19, 2018
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Official figures, released by the Office for National Statistics on 17th July 2018, report that the overall employment rate is at 75.7%, a new record high.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate remains at its lowest since 1975. And, since 2010, the majority of employment growth has been in both full-time and permanent roles.

The women’s employment rate has remained at a joint record high of 71.3%. On top of this, the majority of female employment growth since 2010 has been in higher skilled occupations (74.1%) and the full-time gender pay gap has fallen to a record low of 9.1%.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey, said:

The employment rate is now at a record high of 75.7%. With over 3.3 million more people in work since 2010, this government has seen on average 1,000 more people in work each and every day.

Making sure our jobs market works for everyone is at the heart of this department’s work and the modern industrial strategy, and with over 800,000 job vacancies we have a buoyant jobs market with plenty of opportunities available.

The 8-year trend shows the vast majority of roles are in full-time, permanent work that’s higher skilled – which means higher paid too.

Read more

MPs Scrutinise Apprenticeships and Skills to ‘Root Out’ Poor Provision?
November 17, 2017
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The Commons Education Select Committee inquiry will look at improving the quality of apprenticeships and skills, and how to reward good providers

 

A new inquiry into the quality of apprenticeships and skills has been launched by the Commons Education Select Committee in an attempt to “root out” poor provision across the sector.

The inquiry will seek to identify whether more can be done to improve provision and to examine what barriers learners from disadvantaged backgrounds face when accessing skills training.

Read more

End Point Assessment Explained by Concrew-Training
October 31, 2017
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Following a number of concerns that the Apprenticeship system was overly complex, Trailblazer Groups were created in order to ensure the qualifications reflected industries real needs.

These trailblazer groups identify a set of knowledge, skills and behaviours which would represent their industry and set out an assessment strategy which culminates in a process called End Point Assessment.

End Point Assessment requires each Apprentice to demonstrate robust knowledge, skills and behaviours at the same level of training as Apprentices in every other sector or part of the country.  Ofqual involvement ensures quality throughout.

Read more