Ofsted phased return to inspections

Ofsted is planning a phased return to inspections. Key issues emerging from today’s meeting included:

  • Ofsted will not carry out graded short or full inspections until later in 2021. A return to short or full inspections will be taken forward in a proportionate, sensitive and practical way, taking prevailing conditions into account.
  • To support a return to short and full inspections, Ofsted will be undertaking some pilot inspections to determine whether the EIF and the handback need to be tweaked or adapted in light of Covid. Six of these are taking place in the NW (24 nationally) in April and May. It is unlikely full inspections will take place until these are completed
  • Ofsted will resume New Provider Monitoring Visits from 15 March onwards
  • Progress monitoring visits to providers who have received a monitoring visit previously but who are awaiting a full inspection will cease from 15 March, unless there are safeguarding concerns or a perceived breakdown in leadership and management
  • Monitoring Visits will be undertaken by two HMIs. Ofsted Inspectors will only participate where a specialist inspector is required
  • All inspections will happen in a Covid safe way. The lead inspector will discuss this in the pre-inspection call to understand the situation prior to visit. Inspectors will follow guidelines and take Covid tests prior to the monitoring visit. Results of lateral flow tests will be shared with the provider being inspected to assuage any concerns.
  • Some elements of New Provider Monitoring Visits will be taken forward on-site. New Provider Monitoring Visits will involve some face-to-face / on-site work as well as remote work.

Safeguarding, mental health and well being of learners and provider staff will be a continued theme of Ofsted work moving forward. Mental health, from a raft of provider visits, has been flagged up as a huge issue during Covid. Ofsted will be keen to see how providers have adapted support and the curriculum to help learners look after their mental health, remain in learning and achieve.

Changes to Liverpool PREVENT Referral Pathway

The Liverpool PREVENT Referral Pathway for individuals who are believed to be vulnerable to or at risk of radicalisation has changed.

PREVENT is a safeguarding function. As such, the local authority has a duty and obligation to prevent and stop any abuse or neglect and ensure that all vulnerable adults or children are appropriately safeguarded.

Before the establishment of this new referral pathway, Liverpool PREVENT referrals were made solely and directly to Counter Terrorism (CT) Policing.

The new referral pathway ensures that local authority staff are made aware of any PREVENT referrals at the same time as CT Policing colleagues. In this way, associated safeguarding risks can be assessed at the first point of contact.  

Local authority staff are responsible for assessing and addressing the safeguarding risk. CT Police colleagues are responsible for the assessment and management of the Counter-Terrorism (CT) Risk.

There are links below to the new PREVENT referral form and a document about ‘How to make a PREVENT referral’, which contains information specifically about the referral of children and their perceived level of need.

All Liverpool PREVENT referrals (as of 04/03/21) should now be made using this pathway.  

For further information, please contact Declan Sammin, Prevent Engagement Officer, Liverpool City Council T: 0151 233 0343  M 07394559105  [email protected]

Liverpool PREVENT Referral Form

How Do I Make A Referral

Unfunded learners: ESFA request more information

GMLPF has been discussing the increased numbers of unfunded learners with the ESFA, other northern networks, and AELP.

Anecdotally, it seems members who deliver apprenticeships have seen a significant increase in unfunded learners (and more learners on breaks in learning). This is due to learners being unable to complete functional skills, occupationally relevant exams or EPA.

The issue was raised with ESFA again today in a Northern Skills Network meeting, with reference to a looming crisis for large parts of the sector.

ESFA have now asked us to provide tangible examples of the difficulties providers (colleges and ITPs) are having due to the pandemic and lockdowns. So, could I urgently ask if you could provide me with some examples (the whats, whys and impacts) of how providers are suffering from:

  • High levels of unfunded learners – please give the approximate percentage of learners who are unfunded; is this figure increasing?
  • Early leavers – have you seen a deterioration in retention rate; what the reasons are for this?
  • EPA backlogs – are you seeing a backlog; is this in particular sectors eg I am aware it is a particular issue in hairdressing?
  • FSQ (English & maths) assessment delays – is this an issue?
  • Barriers to completing license to operate qualifications – is this an issue; is it specific to certain sectors ie I am aware that the need to pass a driving test may hinder completion of transport related Apprenticeships
  • Has/will the increase in unfunded learners affect your organisation’s finances and accounts this year and, in turn, impact on your ESFA financial assessment? I ask this question with the RoTAP refresh in mind, and the need to flag this up and convince the ESFA that the financial assessment may need to be more relaxed this year.
  • Any other issues which you think would be of value ie what is the monthly monetary cost associated with increasing numbers of unfunded learners

It would be helpful if you could e-mail by return to [email protected]  any useful intelligence so that I can share it with NSN who can then share it with ESFA and raise it with ministers.

Update from LCR Apprenticeship-focussed meeting of ESB

GMLPF attended a sub-group of the Employment and Skills Board last week that looked specifically at Apprenticeships in the LCR. The purpose of the meeting was to allow the CA to understand what was working well, what was working less well and what could be done better.

Whilst the above points were useful for group discussion GMLPF made a number of strong points that it felt the CA needed to be aware of, both for its local work but also lobbying of DfE and ESFA. These included:

  • The need for a clear vision for Apprenticeships locally – not another strategy rather a simple set of agreed principles around which providers, stakeholders and employers could cohere and which would provide a point of sail for the next few years
  • The need to boost SME demand for Apprenticeships as much as possible at the moment whilst continuing to support the process of Levy transfer. The LCR CA area has traditionally started more Apprenticeships than it would do on a population share basis. Much of this was driven by SMEs. Decreased SME participation in the Apprenticeship programme however caused by a number of factors including less non-levy allocation, the complexities of the Employer Account (and to some extent the cap of 10) has driven down starts locally, in particular for 16-18-year-olds. The LCR CA has done some valuable work in facilitating unspent levy transfers which has been welcome but this rarely benefits the smaller SME bracket of employers or 16-18 year olds. If we want a model that encourages the participation of all age groups then more needs to be done locally to boost SME involvement in the City region and a loosening of the current cap levels.
  • A closer and more operations driven working relationship between GMLPF and the Be-More team was suggested to support the above and to be better able to link employers and providers where training needs exist. Current levels of co-operation aren’t sufficient to retain all of the opportunities they source within the local provider base.
  • The need to protect Traineeships and promote pre-Apprenticeship provision for 16-18-year-olds
  • The local and national policy shift is towards higher-level technical qualifications, which is understood and creating excellent technical education opportunities locally. To achieve this, it requires investment in the provider base and, reflecting on the recent FE White Paper, opportunities for all providers to be able to secure skills capital funding. It was made clear that ITPs are significantly disadvantaged in this regard as the FE White Paper and previous tendering rounds (bar the last one which was managed by the CA) has limited ITP access to this funding stream.

A further follow-up meeting will look at how we can, through closer collaboration, look to stimulate demand for Apprenticeships.


Local Skills Report and Skills Action Plan 2021/22

GMLPF represents members on the local Employment & Skills Board. The ESB is required by Government to publish a Local Skills Plan for 2021/22 which sets out the current needs and opportunities in the City Region together with a Skills Action Plan to address these issues. In recent years, the LCR CA has produced a series of Skills Investment Statements which have done largely the same job, to identify the key trends and employment and skills needs that providers locally and nationally should respond to.

The Local Skills Report is largely analytical and is based upon the summary presentation on the current labour market. There is a lot of detail that Government guidance dictates must be in the plan but the LCR CA is keen to obtain feedback from stakeholders and our members on the plan as it stands. The current working draft sets out this data and narrative: we are still working on a number of the issues that you have raised over recent weeks e.g. what support is available for 18-year-olds, updated sectoral actions. Alongside the plan is a template for feedback which you can complete and return should you so wish.

The deadline for feedback is Wednesday 6 January 2021. The feedback will then be discussed at the next ESB meeting on the 20th January 2021.

In order to obtain a clear sector-wide view on the plan as it stands, GMLPF will hold a consultation session next week. I propose to hold that on Wednesday 17th December at 11.30 for an hour. I will give a quick overview of the plan but will be focusing on getting feedback from members on the strengths, weaknesses and gaps within the plan and looking at the consultation questions. Please feel free to join us and apologies for the short notice but this is being driven by external factors.

I would urge you to book onto this consultation as this plan will shape and inform investment in skills over the coming year. We must ensure that it is fit for purpose.

Book now


National Skills Fund: Level 3 Adult Offer & Bootcamps

Over this Parliament and from 2021-2024, the government is planning on investing £2.5 billion in the National Skills Fund. The National Skills Fund will help adults to train and gain the valuable skills they need to improve their job prospects. The NSF aims to support economic recovery and address future skills needs by boosting the supply of skills and addressing employer skills needs.


The Chancellor announced an initial £375 million for the National Skills Fund at the Spending Review in November 2020. This includes £95 million in funding for a new level 3 adult offer and £43 million to expand skills bootcamps.


Level 3 adult offer

From April 2021, any adult aged 24 and over who wants to achieve their first full level 3 qualification, (equivalent to a technical certificate or diploma, or two A levels) will be able to access almost 400 fully funded courses. This is part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee which was announced by the Prime Minister in September 2020.

Courses will be available in a variety of lengths, to support adults to get the skills they need to boost their careers.


Sector subject areas and courses available

A range of funded courses will deliver a wide range of skills in many jobs and sectors.

Download the complete list of qualifications 

All of the qualifications have been carefully chosen to help adults improve their job prospects, meet the needs of the economy, and cover some critical areas where skills needs exist, namely:

Engineering; building and construction; manufacturing technologies; transportation operations and maintenance; business management; public services; accounting and finance; medicine and dentistry; horticulture and forestry; health and social care; ICT practitioners; ICT for users; mathematics and statistics; science; agriculture; nursing and vocations and subjects allied to medicine; child development and wellbeing; environmental conservation; teaching and lecturing;

warehousing and distribution.

More detailed information on how to access the offer will be available in early 2021. We believe the DfE will run this programme nationally.So what does it mean for providers in the Liverpool City Region?


  • Allocations

We would expect to receive about 4% of total funding or £3m plus, and we understand that that the LCR CA may administer this. We will work with the LCR CA  to establish how it might be developed and managed locally, and to ensure that this funding is accessible to all providers.


  • Awarding organisations, Mayoral Combined Authorities and the Greater London Authority will be able to suggest additions to the list through the qualifications funding approval This can be done on an ongoing basis.

Looking at the list of qualifications, there is a possible risk that this funding may not increase the number of adults starting a Level 3 qualification locally. In fact, this new programme may simply displace Adult Learning Loans, which is a real concern. We will explore this further and work with the LCR CA to ensure that the new programme does not displace and also undermine local provider stability. GMLPF will seek to ensure that this funding sits outside the current AEB procurement model, i.e. funding is not channelled exclusively through the existing grant-funded and procured provider base as that would be too limiting and restrict choice and opportunity.


Skills bootcamps

As part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, the Prime Minister also announced the expansion of the skills bootcamp programme, i.e. running local digital skills bootcamp. Skills bootcamps will complement the level 3 adult offer, providing free, flexible courses of just 12 to 16 weeks. They give the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills, and fast-track to an interview with a local employer.


Subject areas

A range of bootcamp models will be established: Digital; Welding; Engineering; Construction


The Liverpool City Region will be a pilot area for the new bootcamps. Again, we are awaiting more information and will liaise with the LCR CA to discuss the local rollout. If anybody is interested in knowing more about the welding, engineering and construction bootcamps, please contact [email protected] to discuss further

A Message for GMLPF members from CEO Ian Lomas

Earlier this month I came across the New Year’s Day  cover of the Times from this year which stated that “Britain was entering 2020 with a newfound sense of optimism.” How wrong that headline would ultimately prove to be, as, in a matter of weeks, a pandemic was to spread across the globe bringing 2 national lockdowns with it in the UK,  severe restrictions on business and civil liberties and huge operational challenges for learning providers. I know from talking to many of you over the last 9 months that you have very much been in the front line and a number of you also contracted, and thankfully, recovered from Covid.


Challenges and change

What has impressed me, when speaking to you over the last nine months, is how learning providers have responded to the constant challenges brought about by Covid. In many respects, the pandemic has shown the strengths of the sector and individual learning providers. You have played a critical role in protecting the welfare of many of our learners by providing wrap around and pastoral care during the lockdowns and then by providing a Covid secure environment for learning when providers re-opened learning centres. Feedback from Public Health colleagues and yourselves suggests that the sector has been hugely successful in reducing the transmission of Covid and keeping learners healthy. Equally, the pandemic has shown has committed providers are to providing a quality learning experience and just how agile, dynamic and responsive the sector can be, embracing and implementing change quickly in order to continue delivering learning.


Well, what does the New Year hold for us? I am not going to make any grand predictions despite having read “Super Forecasting” during lockdown. However, I am sure that it will continue to throw up challenges but equally opportunities including consultations on ineligible costs and re-rating of Standards, the new National Skills Fund and tendering of 16-18 Traineeships and national AEB programmes.

It’s good to talk

GMLPF will work with you to navigate those and will remain accessible to you all. One of the positives I will take from this year is just how much more personal contact I have had with most of you and how I have been able to help you. It is good to talk and I think that I have spoken to most of you more than I would have done in any given “normal” year although I hope phone calls will soon translate to more visits and face to face meetings. I have also been touched by the positive feedback I  have received from you suggesting that GMLPF got the balance of support and contact that we offer members right throughout the pandemic.



At this point, as we approach Christmas  I’d like to thank you for your continued membership and support and would like to wish you, your families and colleagues a very Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and, critically, a safe holiday period. I would also like to thank the Board members of the Federation who have continued to support me throughout this year and Pavlina Kiakides and Jan Agger who have helped keep GMLPF and myself going throughout the pandemic.

Once again Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Ofsted annual report

Last week, Ofsted published its annual report for the year 2019/20.

It should be noted that this report covers the year when the new EIF was introduced and when inspection activity has been affected by the pandemic.

Some key messages that may be of interest to members are:

Learning Loss
Disruption to learners’ education as a result of the pandemic has been significant, especially in schools. In the pre-16 education sector, time spent in lockdown accounted for some 3% of an individual’s education. The disruption to education during that, and subsequent lockdown, period meant that learners made little progress.

In relation to the FES / Post 16 sector:

  • The proportion of ILPs judged good or outstanding declined for the fourth consecutive year. Whereas, the proportion of Adult and Community Learning providers judged good or outstanding continued to increase and FE remained broadly stable.
  • The proportion of new providers, receiving new provider visits, receiving an Insufficient Progress award increased. Primary reasons for this included: poor use of assessments to support planning of learning, lack of logical curriculum sequencing, insufficient OTJ learning and apprentices not assisted to develop enough new knowledge, skills and behaviours as part of their apprenticeship, instead merely accrediting existing skills that they already have.
  • Governance remains a key issue and concern for Ofsted – “governance was not in place or was not sufficiently challenging in holding senior leaders to account to identify the aspects of the provision that needed to be improved. We also saw leaders, managers and the governance function not moving swiftly enough to implement the recommendations made at a new provider monitoring visit.”
  • Apprenticeship provision is considered to be the weakest, where one in 10 providers are judged inadequate. Almost a quarter (24%) of providers that received new provider monitoring visits in 2019/20 had at least one insufficient progress judgement. Key factors in this were weak leadership and a lack of co-development of the curriculum with employers.

Comprehensive Spending Review

Rishi Sunak made a statement today, announcing the outcomes of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review. As well as ensuring a strong focus on public health and Covid the Government’s focus is upon protecting livelihoods (creating jobs), supporting business and protecting public services.

The OBR forecast for this year shows a predicted 11% decrease in the size of the economy this year before returning to growth in subsequent years. It is unlikely that we will return to pre-Covid economy levels before Qtr 4 in 2022. Against this backdrop, Government is borrowing significant levels of funding running a significant current deficit.

Against that backdrop, the Chancellor made a series of announcements. These include:

  • A freeze on public sector pay increases for a number of public sector employees – focusing any increases on NHS workers and those in low paid positions
  • 8% increase in day to day Government Department spending in 2021/22
  • Ongoing investment in NHS fabric; estate and capital items
  • Additional £1bn of funding for Health and Social Care
  • A UK Shared Prosperity Funding with pilot programmes in 2021/22 rising to £1.8 bn a year as EU funding tapers off – this will focus on regional development (including skills)
  • £24bn increase in defence spending over four years
  • £100bn capital investment planned in 2021/22
  • £7.1bn new homebuilding programme and increased investment in digital infrastructure alongside a 10 point plan for a low carbon / green economy
  • A new levelling up fund of £4bn to support the levelling up agenda adopting a place-based model for use over the next four years

With specific reference to employment, education and skills the Chancellor announced:

  • School budget increased by £2.2bn and expansion of new school building programme
  • £3bn Restart programme for over 1m people (unemployed for 12m +) to get back into work to be managed by DWP to counter increases in unemployment
  • £1.5 bn to improve College / FE facilities
  • £0.5bn to boost Traineeships, Apprenticeships and Sector Work Based Academy initiatives
  • An extension of Apprenticeship employer financial incentives to end of March 21.

To help fund these changes, the Government is clearly borrowing more and making cuts in some areas such as Overseas Aid (DFID budget to fall from 0.7% to 0.5% of total Government budget)

It would appear that the Government is planning significant investment in employment, education and skills but, at this point, the investment seems to be more focused on unemployment and pre-16 programmes. Whilst there are some welcome announcements it is disappointing that programmes such as Apprenticeships have not been prioritised more as they are a great vehicle for both creating jobs and improving skills

As more detail emerges, we shall, of course, circulate it.

LCA funding for digital skills programmes

Liverpool Combined Authority recently launched the Digital Skills for the Workplace project, funded by DfE until 31st March 2021 as part of the Digital Bootcamps initiative.

As part of this project, they can provide full funding for digital skills training which is at least Level 3 standard (or equivalent) and up to 12 weeks in duration. They can support employers in the Liverpool City Region who are experiencing digital skills gaps (to upskill, repurpose or recruiting), and individuals in the Liverpool City Region aged 19+ who are looking to upskill/reskill. Additionally, they are working with interested Training Providers to develop suitable digital skills programmes.

Below are links to three PDFs which contain an overview for each audience – Employer, Individuals and Training Providers.

Each PDF has an online link which takes the reader to the relevant registration of interest link. Submissions will be received at a shared mailbox [email protected] which will be picked up by a member of the project team.


Employer overview 

Individuals overview 

Training Providers overview