ST HELENS Chamber’s operations as an independent learning provider requires improvement, according to a government watchdog.

Ofsted carried out a seven-day inspection of the Chamber in February and published its findings in March.

Behaviour and attitudes, personal development, education programmes for young people and adult learning programmes were all rated ‘good’.

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However, the quality of education, Leadership and management and apprenticeships were all rated as ‘requires improvement’, with an overall rating of requires improvement given.

Following its last inspection by Ofsted in 2016, St Helens Chamber was rated as good.

One area that has come in for particular criticism in the report is around apprentices.

At the time of writing the report, there were 606 apprentices with the Chamber.

The report says members of the Chamber’s board, leaders and managers have an “ambitious vision” to improve the lives of the residents of St Helens.

It says leaders have implemented “purposeful, well-designed programmes”, however, this does not apply to apprentices.

“Leaders and managers have a clear understanding of the quality of education in traineeships and adult learning programmes,” the report says.

“However, board members and senior leaders do not have sufficient oversight of apprenticeship provision.

“They have been too slow to identify and rectify a decline in the quality of training that apprentices receive.

“Leaders and managers rightly recognise that they still have much work to do to improve the planning and coordination of the curriculum for apprentices.”

The report says managers have been too slow in working with, and providing staff development activities for training advisers.

Subsequently, training advisers do not use information about what apprentices already know and can do to plan meaningful learning.

Too often, the report says, they merely assess apprentices’ knowledge and skills without any learning taking place. At other times, training advisers provide too much help for apprentices.

Consequently, apprentices are not challenged well enough to work independently and solve problems for themselves.

The Ofsted report says the new management team has recently put into place appropriate plans to improve the apprenticeship programmes.

It says the management team is “working diligently” towards short-term targets so all apprentices can access the new curricula they have implemented.

St Helens Star: Kath Boullen, chief executive of St Helens Chamber,Kath Boullen, chief executive of St Helens Chamber,

The behaviour of the apprentices and the expectation of behaviour fit for the workplace was one element of the report that came in for particular praise.

“Staff have high expectations for apprentices’ and learners’ behaviour and conduct. This reflects the business nature of the Chamber.

“Apprentices and learners behave well, attend regularly and are punctual. They are courteous and well-mannered.

“Apprentices and learners show respect for their peers, employers and the Chamber staff.

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“They can explain articulately the importance of these key attributes in readying themselves for the workplace.

Kath Boullen, chief executive of St Helens Chamber, said the issues raised in the report were already being addressed at the time of the inspection.

She said this was acknowledged by Ofsted, which recognised that more time will be needed to feel the impacts of these changes on the ground.