Government auditor puts Learndirect funding under investigation

Alys Key
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Learndirect is the biggest provider of adult education in the UK (Source: Getty)

The UK’s biggest provider of adult learning and apprenticeships faces scrutiny over its standards and funding after the National Audit Office (NAO) announced an investigation this evening.

The government’s auditor will examine why Learndirect was given £45m by Department for Education’s funding agency, despite its poor Ofsted rating.

The company, which is owned by Lloyds Bank’s private equity arm LDC, was given the lowest possible rating by inspectors in March. It was deemed a grade four, which signifies education provision which is “inadequate”.

But it was nevertheless awarded £45m in funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency from next year’s adult education budget, despite not taking part in the bidding process for the money. It will continue to receive funding until July 2018.

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The NAO said its investigation would “set out the key facts” related to the case.

Concerns over Learndirect’s funding were raised last month by the chair of the Public Accounts Committee. Labour MP Meg Hillier accused the government of treating the company as “too big to fail”.

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She called for the government to demonstrate “consequences” to falling short of standards.

"It needs to show there are consequences, and it's a real slap in the face to providers out there doing a good job, who are rated good or excellent by Ofsted, who then see a failing provider seemingly getting away with it."

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