MPs “shocked” by revelations
It was revealed this week that a major training provider managed to secure a super-injunction which prevented inspectors from passing a damning report to the Government.
The press reported that Learndirect had managed to prevent the assessment, which was critical of its practices, being published for a four month period.
The revelation came when Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of education watchdog Ofsted, was invited to give evidence to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.
She said: “An application was made for an injunction before the election period was up and the court, somewhat bizarrely and without reference to us, granted a super-injunction which made it impossible for any discussion whatever to happen even between us and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).
“Why it was granted was baffling. From that application, which was made before the election, through until the judgment was handed down, no part of government could talk to the other part of government about the situation, nor would they have been able to discuss with third parties the handling, because it was not possible to discuss this pending judgment.”
Ms Spielman’s evidence was described as “staggering” by Labour backbencher Meg Hillier, who chairs the influential group of MPs.
Speaking to FE Week following the PAC hearing, Ms Hillier said: “I think we got some shocking revelations today and the description of how the super injunction was used and the fact that the company thought it was acceptable to have an argument with Ofsted like that is shocking.
“I think there are wider issues here about how when you have private sector companies where profit really is the main driver that they will do all sorts of things that would not be acceptable in the public sector like take out super injunctions, like trying to delay inspections, in order to prop up their profits.”
Andy Palmer, the chief executive of Learndirect, said he disagreed that taxpayers’ money had been wasted.
“What we asked for was that the report was not published. I don’t recall asking for such an injunction so as such the departments couldn’t talk to each other about the case,” he said. “I think this was justified because any publication of the report would damage the company.”