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In the News

Exclusive: Government inaction as employers leave apprentices half a million pounds out of pocket

It’s likely that no-one has been fined or prosecuted for illegally underpaying apprentices, an FE Week investigation exposing the “unacceptable” failure of government enforcement has found. The Department for Education’s own survey, published on Wednesday, found that 18 per cent of apprentices were paid below the appropriate national minimum wage in 2016, up from 15 per cent in 2014. A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy admitted there had been just 13 prosecutions since 2007 for minimum wage violations, four of which were in 2016-17. However, he claimed to “not have information” as to whether any of these related to apprenticeships. Meanwhile, in 2015-16, he said the government identified “£558,618 of arrears for 632 workers in cases where complaints involved apprentices”, though this only refers to underpayment claims, which have to be reimbursed, and do not represent fines. Asked directly whether any employers had been fined or prosecuted for non-compliance over apprentices’ pay, the DfE declined to respond. It also refused to comment on whether government attempts to deter employers, through naming and shaming, and threats of fines or prosecution, had failed. The newly elected chair of the education select committee, Robert Halfon, a former skills...

Tendering launch time for Institutes of Technology revealed

Tenders for developing the government’s new Institutes of Technology have been put off until the autumn, skills and apprenticeships minister Anne Milton has revealed. She made the announcement in a letter sent to FE leaders yesterday, in which she also told them that teaching of the first T-levels would be delayed by a year to September 2020. While a date for tendering will be welcomed amidst growing uncertainty, there are fears that starting the process after the summer break could leave the sector waiting as late as the autumn budget, which is typically held the end of November, for the “competition” to open. “Prestigious IoTs will be developed to deliver the higher-level technical skills that employers need,” she wrote. “The competition to establish these Institutes will launch in the autumn.” Also in the letter (which you can read in full here) was reference to an official public consultation on the design of T-levels, another thing that has been pushed back until the autumn. Formally announcing the consultation in the letter, the minister (pictured above) wrote: “We are also planning a public consultation on the design of T-levels, to allow all interested organisations and individuals to contribute towards the development of...

Ofsted watch: Three providers branded ‘inadequate’

Three providers have been branded ‘inadequate’ in a tough week for the FE and skills sector. Land-based provider Easton and Otley College, independent provider EQL Solutions Limited and employer provider Compass Group UK & Ireland have all been given the lowest possible grade. Easton and Otley College was rated grade four in all areas except effectiveness of leadership and management, and apprenticeships – both given grade three – in a report published July 20 and based on an inspection carried out in May. “Too many students” on study programmes were found to “not make the progress of which they are capable”, while adult learners “do not benefit from effective, well-planned teaching, learning and assessment”. Consequently, “too few” learners “achieved their qualifications”, with the proportion having “declined in recent years”. Leaders and managers were also criticised for failing to act “swiftly to bring about improvements to the provision in order to ensure that students and apprentices make good progress”. Governance and management at EQL Solutions Limited came in for heavy criticism in a report published July 19 and based on an inspection in March. The Warrington-based provider was rated inadequate in all areas except adult learning, with governors and leaders slammed...

Investigation update: Confusion as government refuses to say if all provider’s funding pulled

The future of a provider caught offering banned inducements to an employer remains in limbo, after the government refused to confirm whether all its last funding will be cancelled. Talent Training, a company based in South Tyneside, does not appear in the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s latest allocations list, and the company itself has told FE Week that its non-levy-paying apprenticeships contract was set to be terminated. The ESFA itself, however, has refused to confirm the truth of the matter. The agency first said it would end its “levy agreement” with Talent a month ago, after it was presented with the findings of an undercover FE Week investigation into the kickbacks it had been offering employers. It confirmed at the time, though, that the provider’s non-levy apprenticeship contracts were not coming to an end. Nevertheless, Talent, which had been allocated £954,877 from the adult education budget as of March, made no appearance on the ESFA’s June allocations list. In a statement given to FE Week, a spokesperson for the provider said: “ESFA has given notice to terminate Talent’s main [non-levy paying apprenticeships] contract in October, although no final decision has yet been made. “Talent is at a loss to...