Concerns over future of Sunderland City Council's '˜inadequate' apprenticeship and adult learning services

Concerns have been raised about the future of Sunderland City Council's (SCC) adult learning services after government inspectors rated them '˜inadequate' earlier this year.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 20 July, 2018, 16:17
Sunderland Civic Centre.

As previously reported, SCC’s further education and apprenticeship services Tyne and Wear Care Alliance (TWCA) dropped from ‘good’ to Ofsted’s lowest rating following an inspection in January.

A report at the time found safeguarding was “ineffective” with leaders and managers failing to prepare instructors to discuss the risks of radicalisation and extremism with learners and apprentices.

On July 19, Head of Programmes at the People Service Directorate, Sandra Mitchell, gave updates on the service to the council’s Scrutiny Co-ordinating Committee.

At the time of the inspection, TWCA had 452 learners on roll – with 205 in Sunderland – and also supported 2,800 learners through sub-contractors in its Family, Adult and Community Learning service (FACL).

The meeting heard the service had its first Ofsted monitoring visit in April which showed progress and also retained majority of its apprentices after discussion with employers.

As the service has been removed from the government register of training providers, it’s unable to recruit new apprentices and may lose out on key funding.

Ms Mitchell said the failed inspection was linked to TWCA setting up its own assessment centre which faced delays due to capacity within the service.

“That process doesn’t need to take two years and it took two years in this instance,” she told councillors at Sunderland Civic Centre.

“We need to be focused on putting that improvement in place much quicker.”

In response to a question from Coun Darryl Dixon, she also agreed the service had “taken its eye off the ball” in terms of monitoring performance.

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But Coun Colin English, referencing SCC’s ‘inadequate’ children’s services inspection in 2015, told the committee SCC needed to take “critical action”.

“When we’re dealing with Ofsted we need to get it right. It has been a number of years and we’re not learning lessons,” he said.

“This ethos needs to change and we need to be self-critical.”

Coun Doris Macknight also asked if learners could miss out before the next full Ofsted inspection in summer next year.

Ms Mitchell responded: “There won’t be a gap if they re-inspect in that time scale but we will absolutely need to grow again if we’re put back on the register.”

TWCA supports health and social care apprentices across Tyne and Wear and Durham with its FACL service provided through third-sector organisations.

The service is currently carrying out monthly assessments with providers and will recieve additional Ofsted visits before its next full inspection.

Following discussion, councillors agreed to invite SCC’s cabinet member for children, Coun Louise Farthing, to discuss the service at future meetings.

Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporting Service