Ofsted report ‘significant progress’ in learning and skills service in Sunderland

Ofsted inspectors have noted ‘significant progress’ in family, adult and community learning and apprenticeships in Sunderland.

Friday, 1st March 2019, 6:40 pm
Updated Friday, 1st March 2019, 6:47 pm
Sunderland Civic Centre.

Last month, education watchdogs carried out their final monitoring inspection of Sunderland City Council’s provision of further education and skills training.

The service was previously labelled ‘inadequate’ overall following an inspection in 2018.

Cabinet member for children, learning and skills on Sunderland City Council, Coun Louise Farthing.

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At the time, a report highlighted concerns around apprenticeships, leadership and management and the lack of staff training in discussing the risks of extremism and radicalisation with learners.

However, the service retained the majority of its apprentices after discussions with employers and has shown progress in two subsequent Ofsted visits.

Following a third visit last month, inspectors noted“significant progress’ in four out of the six areas examined.

This includes actions and extra training for subcontractors around identifying radicalisation and extremism and a new policy around staying safe online.

Praise also came for new systems for reporting safeguarding concerns, the ability of council leaders to hold service managers to account and the way performance is monitored.

The report, published on February 26, said: “The portfolio holder (for children learning and skills) and her deputy have developed a good understanding of the strengths and areas for further development of the provision since they took up their posts at the last council elections.

“They have used their knowledge of the council’s strategic priorities and the economic needs of the area to inform the commissioning process of the new subcontracted providers of adult and community learning.

“As a result, there is a greater emphasis on developing the skills of local residents to enter the labour market, particularly in areas such as health and social care, and on improving the digital skills of those in receipt of Universal Credit.”

Inspectors also noted ‘reasonable progress’ around quality checks in adult learning and providing access to “high-quality off-the job training” for apprentices.

At the time of the visit, which took place between January 22-23, the council had 154 apprentices with the majority on health and social care programmes.

The council’s Learning and Skills Service has also recommissioned all providers and currently works with 19 subcontractors, five of which are new and have not recruited learners yet.

Cabinet member for children, learning and skills on the council, Coun Louise Farthing, welcomed the report.

“Staff have worked very hard and I’m delighted to see the progress they have made being recognised by Ofsted,” she said.

“We want nothing but the best for our learners which means helping them achieve the qualifications that they need so they can go out into the world and get jobs that will help our communities.

“I’m delighted that the service is now much better and shows every sign of continuing this improvement.”

The most recent assessment of the apprenticeship scheme follows two reports showing improvements in the city’s fostering and adoption services.

The services, which are run by Together for Children, on the council’s behalf, have been rated as ‘good’.

Caption: Cabinet member for children, learning and skills on Sunderland City Council, Coun Louise Farthing

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service