Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Northern Ireland Department for Employment and Learning

Question 4 (Chairman):
Document No NIAO Figure RefReport Pg No
1.  429 Weaknesses Reported in ETI reports 2001-04
2.  635 ETI Gradings of Training Areas 2002-04
3.1049 Leavers Destinations as at December 2004

Reference NIAO Figure 4

Frequency of Recurrence
Recurrent WeaknessNIAO Report (1998 to 2000) ETI Update (2001 to 2004)
Deficiencies in the quality of directed training within TOs 88% (23 of 26 inspections)70% (26 of 37 inspections)
Poor development and ineffective incorporation of Key Skills within training 88% (23 of 26 inspections)70% (26 of 37 inspections)
Assessment, quality assurance arrangement and internal verification processes 69% (18 of 26 inspections)60% (22 of 37 inspections)
Variable retention and success rates62% (15 of 26 inspections) 60% (22 of 37 inspections)
Weaknesses in initial assessment arrangements and their effectiveness 58% (15 of 26 inspections)20% (7 of 37 inspections)
Poor quality of work-placements 58% (15 of 26 inspections) 50% (18 of 37 inspections)
Employer understanding and involvement 50% (13 of 26 inspections)40% (15 of 37 inspections)
Systems of management review and evaluation of training quality 42% (11 of 26 inspections)35% (13 of 37 inspections)

Reference NIAO Figure 6

Reference NIAO Figure 10

Question 5 (Chairman):

  1.  The Department takes very seriously the quality of provision for the young people who participate on Jobskills. Many have problems, some serious, including behavioural as well as weaknesses in literacy and numeracy. Consequently, they need and deserve the best possible provision.

  2.  The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) provides the Department with an evaluation of the quality of provision through:

    —  inspection of individual training organisations (now one in four year cycle);

    —  surveys of particular aspects of provision (this will mean inspections of this aspect in a number of organisations with one written report);

    —  regular visits to individual training organisations by specialist inspectors such as construction, administration, ICT etc (no written report);

    —  regular visits by the District Inspector to training organisations in their districts to assess issues relating to the whole organisation, for example, to discuss the introduction of the self-evaluation process "Improving Quality: Raising Standards" (no written report);

    —  meetings between ETI and Regional Managers.

  3.  After an inspection, the organisation is required to draw up an action plan setting out how they will address weaknesses. This is assessed by the Inspectorate to ensure that the plan is robust and will address the weaknesses. Within 18-24 months the Inspectorate undertakes a follow-up inspection. This report is also published. In the case of inspections identified in the NIAO report, all organisations have been or will be re-inspected. Those who have been re-inspected have, according to ETI, addressed satisfactorily the issues raised in the original inspection.

  4.  Training organisations are now, on a yearly basis, required to complete a self-evaluation of the quality of their provision based on the indicators of quality set out in the Inspectorate's document "Improving Quality: Raising Standards". Organisations are, along with the evaluations, required to produce an action plan setting out how they intend to address the weaknesses. This evaluation is assessed by the Regional Managers supported by the Inspectorate.

  5.  Awarding bodies and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) are responsible for ensuring that the standard and integrity of NVQs are maintained within the training organisations.


  6.  The majority of inspections show that there are more organisations with significant strengths or more strengths than weaknesses (75%) than with more weaknesses than strengths (25%). This does not mean that the Department is complacent about dealing with poor practice.

  7.  Organisations which are assessed as having more weaknesses than strengths are not poor in every aspect of provision. In fact in the organisations covered by the NIAO report the Inspectorate found some significant strengths such as, among others:

    —  good retention rates;

    —  good progression rates for trainees completing successfully their training programmes;

    —  rigorous assessment and verification procedures;

    —  good quality workplace training;

    —  improved self-confidence and self-esteem of the majority of Access trainees.

    If provision does not improve in those areas graded poor, the Department removes these areas from the contract.


  8.  The Department takes seriously the need for quality provision and has taken a number of steps to improve the quality of training offered to young people and to address issues raised by ETI, especially in the area of literacy and numeracy.

    (i)  all tutors who provide training in Essential Skills either meet the Tutor Education requirements set out in the Essential Skills Strategy or are currently being trained; this is a significant achievement;

    (ii)  the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) has developed and is piloting a diagnostic test to assess the competence of young people in Essential Skills on entry to training in a number of training organisations;

    (iii)  the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) provides support to all organisations, including Jobskills providers, for Essential Skills;

    (iv)  the Department funds Key Skills Resource Centres to provide support for key skills;

    (v)  the Department is piloting new provision for Access trainees to address specifically the significant multiple barriers that face these young people including drug and alcohol abuse; behavioural difficulties; low self-esteem; literacy and numeracy weaknesses; early findings show significant improvements.

  9.  In addition, the Department:

    (i)  has discussed with the Centre for Excellence in Leadership the extension of its provision to Northern Ireland for managers in training organisations; this is currently operational in further education;

    (ii)  is currently evaluating the curriculum and staff development support from LSDA for further education and has opened discussions to extend the contract to include Jobskills providers, specifically to provide support after inspection;

    (iii)  supports the new Sector Skills Council for Lifelong Learning which includes training organisations and has committed to ensuring the staff are trained to the standards set by the SSC; these discussions have taken place already with the SSC;

    (iv)  is discussing actively with the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) the extension of the remit for the recently announced Quality Improvement Agency to Northern Ireland.

  10.  Other areas relevant to quality:

    —  arrangements are in train to place ETI reports on the DEL web-site and add new reports as they become available;

    —  examples of good practice will be placed on the Department's web-site.

  11.  The Inspectorate is engaged in helping the Department to improve quality by:

    —  helping the Department to analyse the self evaluation reports and the attendant action plans on individual organisations;

    —  the organisation of conferences and seminars to share good practice;

    —  the training and use of highly skilled tutors from training organisations across Northern Ireland as Associate Assessors for use in inspections; this will help in the sharing of good practice.

  12.  Other major developments:

    —  the Department, in its draft Skills Strategy, launched in November 2004, is reconfiguring its Jobskills provision with a view to strengthening the Access strand and developing the Apprenticeship strand as the flagship training provision and alternative to full-time education;

    —  the Department is establishing a Policy and Improvement Unit which will have responsibility for:

      (i)  ensuring that accredited professional training programmes are developed for staff to meet the standards set by the SSC for staff;

      (ii)  ensuring the weaknesses identified by the Inspectorate are addressed;

      (iii)  ensuring good practice is shared;

      (iv)  the contracts with the Learning and Skills Development Agency and the Centre for Excellence in Leadership;

      (v)  taking forward the work identified by the Quality Improvement Agency.

Question 90 (Mr Alan Williams):

  The poorest performing Training Organisations (20%)—NVQ Achievement as at March 2002 is as follows, together with their current status:
Training OrganisationCurrent Status
Chatham HouseWithdrawn
Desmond and Sons LtdWithdrawn
Federation of Retail Licensing TradeWithdrawn
* Royal MailWithdrawn
Stylo BarrattsWithdrawn
CTRS Computer TrainingWithdrawn
Sea Fish IndustryWithdrawn
* Melbourne Training and EmploymentWithdrawn
MARI Group LtdWithdrawn
MARI Group StrabaneWithdrawn
Hospitality and ServiceWithdrawn
* WorknetWithdrawn
JTM Adult Employment AgencyWithdrawn
NIHCCNo longer involved in training
SpringskillsStill operating
Advanced Training and DevelopmentStill operating
* Derry Youth and Community Workshop Ltd Still operating
Austins Quality Training Services (formerly A&D Training Services) Still operating
* Dairy Farm People FirstStill operating
North Down Training OrganisationStill operating
* H J O'BoyleStill operating
Graham TrainingStill operating
Cookstown TrainingStill operating
* Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Still operating
*  Those marked with an asterisk are those also included in the Employment outcomes list (Question 93 supplementary note)

Question 93 (Mr Alan Williams):

  The poorest performing Training Organisations (20%)—Employment Outcome as at March 2002 is as follows, together with their current status:

Training OrganisationCurrent Status
* Royal MailWithdrawn
Maydown Youth Training ProjectWithdrawn
* WorknetWithdrawn
* Melbourne Training & EmploymentWithdrawn
Glenmount Training ServicesWithdrawn
Wade Training ArmaghWithdrawn
Shantallow Training ServicesWithdrawn
Springtown Training CentreSubsumed within North West Institute
Maydown Training CentreSubsumed within North West Institute
Felden Training CentreSubsumed within East Antrim Institute
Construction Industry Training BoardStill operating
SX3 (NIE Powerteam)Still operating
Department of AgricultureStill operating
Training DirectStill operating
JTM Youth & Adult EmploymentStill operating
* H J O'Boyle BelfastStill operating
* Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Still operating
Wade Training ArmaghStill operating
JTM Youth & Adult EmploymentStill operating
* Derry Youth and Community Workshop Ltd Still operating
Bombardier—ShortsStill operating
* Dairy FarmStill operating
Tyrone TrainingStill operating
North Down and Ards InstituteStill operating
Electrical Training (NI) LtdStill operating
JTM Youth & Adult EmploymentStill operating
Springskills Belfast (Protocol)Still operating
*  Those marked with an asterisk are those included in the

Q112 (Mr Ian Davidson):

  The figures quoted in the NIAO Report (29% and 20% respectively) are based on responses from a survey of young people. The Department feels that in using these surveys there needs to be caution. It is our view that there is a danger that some young people fail to recognise the broader aspects of Jobskills training, particularly regarding transferable skills, which can be successfully harnessed to meet the needs of an employer.

  However, the Department accepts that young people's views are relevant to the process of improving quality. It will review the survey questionnaire so that in the forthcoming evaluation a wider range of questions are used to gain a better indication of how the skills developed through training are transferred to the workplace and will see how this assists in improving the relevant training.

Q113 (Mr Brian Jenkins):

  The attainment of key skills became a mandatory requirement from April 1999. For training organisations to obtain output-related funding in respect of qualification achievement individual trainees had to attain the relevant NVQ and all the specified key skills. Consequently, organisations were not required to report the attainment of individual key skill awards. However, as recommended in the NIAO Report, the Jobskills management information system has been amended to allow data on the attainment of individual key skill awards to be collected.

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