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In the News

The six main findings from the NAO’s report into Learndirect


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The National Audit Office has today published its report into the circumstances surrounding the monitoring, inspection and funding of Learndirect. The nation’s biggest FE provider was given an ‘inadequate’ rating by Ofsted in a report published in August, and the government offered it special treatment by allowing it to retain its contracts for almost a year – much more than the usual three-month termination period. FE Week has the report’s main findings: 1. Plans were aborted for full Ofsted inspections in 2015 and 2016 Ofsted identified “risks” with Learndirect’s delivery of apprenticeships and classroom-based teaching in 2015 but only gave it an “amber” rating at the time, which did not trigger an inspection. In March 2016, Ofsted changed this risk rating to red, and in July that year made an internal decision to schedule a full inspection for the following November. Learndirect however asked to “defer” this inspection while it was negotiating the sale of its apprenticeships business to another party (a sale which never actually went through), to which Ofsted agreed. On March 16 this year, Ofsted notified Learndirect that it intended to conduct an inspection between March 20 and 23, but the provider immediately asked to defer  again...
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NAO report: So which minister signed off on Learndirect’s special treatment?


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The special treatment afforded to Learndirect after its infamous grade four from Ofsted was actually a ministerial decision, even though the ESFA’s former boss attempted to take “personal responsibility” for it, the National Audit Office has revealed. The country’s public spending watchdog has this morning published its much-anticipated report into the circumstances surrounding the monitoring, inspection and funding at the nation’s biggest FE provider. It has for the first time shown that the decision to continue funding Learndirect until July 31 next year was ultimately made by a Department for Education minister, even though Peter Lauener publicly claimed it had been his decision. The NAO’s report states that between 2015 and August 2017, Ofsted awarded an ‘inadequate’ rating to 26 providers aside from Learndirect. In 23 cases, the ESFA terminated their contracts with a notice period of three months or fewer. The other three cases involved four- or six-month notice periods. In May this year, around six weeks after Ofsted’s visit to Learndirect, the ESFA concluded that continuing to fund the provider for 2017/18 would “best meet the interests of learners”, allowing the company to wind down and let learners “complete their courses with minimal disruption”. This was because the...
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Public Accounts Committee to call Learndirect hearing in wake of NAO investigation


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The public accounts committee has scheduled a hearing to review the Learndirect saga on January 15 in the New Year, FE Week understands. The meeting will dissect the findings of tomorrow’s National Audit Office report, which was called for by the PAC’s chair, Meg Hillier (pictured above), and looks into the circumstances surrounding the monitoring, inspection and funding of the nation’s biggest FE provider. It is understood that witnesses to be called to the hearing will include Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman, Learndirect boss Andy Palmer, former ESFA chief Peter Lauener, and the Department for Education’s permanent secretary, Jonathan Slater. Learndirect was offered special treatment after the government allowed it to retain its contracts for almost a year – much more than the usual three-month termination period – even though the provider was given an ‘inadequate’ rating by Ofsted in a report published in August.
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Skills to be at the heart of social mobility plan


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FE and skills will have a major role to play in a new social mobility action plan being launched by the education secretary this morning. The plan, which will be unveiled by Justine Greening at the Reform social mobility conference in London today, outlines four social mobility “ambitions” – two of which focus on post-16 education and training. It promises to offer “real choice at post-16” and “rewarding careers for all” as part of its overarching aim to focus on the areas of the country that have been left behind. “Today I’m launching a plan which puts improving social mobility at the heart of all our education policy,” Ms Greening is expected to say. “The reality is that in modern Britain, where you start too often decides where you finish. “This is a defining challenge for us as a nation. We have talent spread evenly across this great country – the problem is that opportunity is not. “And for some people it’s a whole lifespan of missed opportunities.” The new plan, she is expected to say, will “provide a structure and an architecture to enable us to work in a more coordinated way” to tackle the social mobility challenge. Her...
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