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learndirect responds to sensational media coverage after Ofsted report

Sector Response to the learndirect Ofsted report
learndirect Limited, the UK’s largest provider of skills, training and employment services has appointed PR consultancy Media House International to help counter the misconceptions and ill-informed debate that currently surrounds the company.
The appointment stems from media coverage following a recent Ofsted report that awarded learndirect Limited a low ranking for its service provision. The company does not agree with the Ofsted rating.
It is the board’s belief that much of the coverage fails to understand the complexities of the situation. This is in a climate where national financial commitment to training and Apprenticeships has been dramatically reduced. It is imperative that there is a forensic examination of the challenges facing training providers and the effect this is having on the thousands of learners who participate in these vital courses.
In light of this, learndirect Limited has prepared a detailed response to the accusations laid against it in the media and political spheres through their Q&A article. While this document provides a full response to the charges, learndirect Limited would like to address three issues in particular that have been mispresented in the public domain.
Firstly, learndirect Limited are extremely disappointed with the sensationalised reporting of incorrect information that has undermined the areas of the business that were not deemed to be underperforming and directly harmed the wider business and its stakeholders. 
This spreading of incorrect information is perfectly exemplified by statements from Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman. Mrs Spielman said the most shocking finding from the report was that “something like a third of the apprentices at learndirect were getting no training at all.”
This statement is factually incorrect as the attached Q&A clearly demonstrates. It is deeply concerning that the head of Ofsted could misinterpret her own organisation’s report so badly.
Secondly, it is learndirect Limited’s firm belief that much of the press coverage to date has failed to understand the complexities of the situation and as a result the company has been unfairly portrayed. The barrage of criticism aimed at all aspects of learndirect Limited’s business does not reflect the work that has been done to improve overall company performance.
learndirect Limited has acknowledged the historic poor performance of the SME Apprenticeship part of the business and taken significant action to remedy the situation including changing management and ceasing taking on new learners in this area. The remaining parts of the business (in particular the core ESFA funded Adult Learning business) were recognised in the Ofsted report as improving and it is unjust that this part of the business will ultimately carry the imposed sanction and have funding withdrawn.
Thirdly, certain members of the media have insinuated that learndirect Limited was seen as ‘too big to fail’ and that the company received preferential treatment in receiving an ESFA contract to wind down its Adult Learning business.
learndirect Limited firmly rejects the charge of preferential treatment and is highly displeased with these accusations for a variety of reasons, including:
  • learndirect Limited will not benefit from the £45m of funding as this level of funding does not even cover the cost base in the Adult Learning part of the business. The decision to fund learndirect Limited to July 2018 was made in the interest of learners.
  • learndirect Limited’s Adult Learning business has good success rates (better now than when it was an Ofsted Grade 2) and received a Grade 3 in the recent inspection. The decision therefore to force a significant operator in the Adult Learning sector to close is unjust.
  • We understand that learndirect Limited did not receive a higher proportional funding allocation from ESFA in 2017/18 than other providers who chose to exit the sector.
  • It is worth noting that a public-sector organisation that is awarded an Ofsted Grade 4 is allowed to continue trading and make improvements (a number of FE colleges have been permitted to do this) while any private sector provider given a Grade 4 is closed down. This is deeply unfair and inhibits competition in the sector.


Ken Hill 100x100learndirect Limited’s Chairman Ken Hills said, “I hope responsible media and the FE community begin to understand that successive governments have continually moved the goalposts in the adult skills and Apprenticeships landscape. It is then left to companies such as ours to pick up the pieces, although ultimately the real victims are the learners and apprentices, mainly young people, who will suffer from these catastrophic policies. learndirect Limited has acknowledged that mistakes were made in its SME Apprenticeship delivery and has taken significant action to remedy the situation.”

 What are your views about the learndirect Ofsted report? Click here to find out how the sector responded in August.

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