Inspectors have criticised Wigan and Leigh College’s use of subcontracting following a pioneering visit to the borough.
A report from Ofsted says the monitoring trip was the first of a series of journeys the organisation intends to make to further education providers, scrutinising the quality of outsourced provision.
Inspectors were not entirely impressed, either, saying Wigan and Leigh College governors and senior leaders have been too slow to respond to poor performance among subcontractors.
The college, though, has hit back strongly, saying subcontracting is a very small part of the institution’s work and there are plans to shrink the amount of it even further.
In their report, the Ofsted inspectors said: “The actions of governors and senior leaders to improve the performance of subcontractors have not been rapid enough. The proportion of apprentices on subcontracted provision who achieve their qualifications is too low and has fallen over the last three years.”
Particular concerns were raised over Citrus Training Solutions, which works with apprentices, with inspectors saying in 2016-17 only just over half of learners working with the subcontracted body completed programmes successfully.
More than 500 apprentices, mainly on business management and administration courses, are under the auspices of Citrus Training Solutions.
The inspectors did note that learners on community-based provision made “good progress in developing their personal, social and work-related skills”.
However, the percentage achieving their qualifications in 2016-17 was lower than that for students being taught directly by the college.
Managers at five community-based providers, which account for around 200 learners, were recognised as providing good opportunities for learners to develop.
The college issued a robust defence of its work, saying fewer than one in 10 of its students had subcontracted providers involved in their learning.
It also said it wants to slash the involvement of outside bodies further.
A Wigan and Leigh College spokesperson said: “The college, as always, has taken on board the feedback from Ofsted.
“Subcontracting in the college has been significantly reduced over the past two years and constitutes less than eight per cent of all the activity
undertaken and this is set to further reduce next academic year.
“We value highly the work undertaken by partners and in 2016/17 had already made a significant investment in our capacity to support them.
“We are, however, committed to our partners who provide specialist provision and value highly the contribution they make.
“The college was inspected less than 18 months ago by Ofsted where it was judged to be good and the monitoring visit does not affect that judgement.”