Learndirect hires Media House to rebutt 'sensationalised reporting'

Skills and training provider learndirect has appointed Media House International to help counter what the agency calls "misconceptions and ill-informed debate" - claims rejected by a trade title at the centre of the story.

"The appointment stems from media coverage following a recent Ofsted report that awarded learndirect Limited a low ranking for its service provision. The company does not agree with the Ofsted rating," a release from Media House says.

The agency began work on the reputation management and public affairs brief earlier this month.

Industry magazine FE Week reported at the start of the month that learndirect, which it says is the nation's largest further education provider, "has been handed around £45m from next years' adult education budget even though it didn’t participate in the tender process and despite its now-infamous grade four [rating] from Ofsted".

FE Week has since reported that learndirect "is expected to face a National Audit Office investigation following a request from the Public Accounts Committee".

'Misrepresentation' accusation

A Q&A document produced by Media House, which began working for learndirect earlier this month, accuses FE Week and the FT of "trying to sensationalise learndirect’s position", and the agency's chair Jack Irvine said he had "cause for concern regarding the standards of so-called investigative journalism that were used to cover the story".

Learndirect group CEO, Andy Palmer said: "We can’t take any more of this misrepresentation and we need to set the record straight hence the appointment of Jack Irvine’s team who are highly experienced in this field."

Asked to comment by PRWeek, FE Week publisher Shane Mann said: "This is the first time Learndirect’s views have been brought to our attention. It all appears to be a bit of bluster to try and salvage its reputation after Ofsted published such a damning report on it in August. Learndirect has been afforded ample opportunities to outline its position for our consideration, but as yet has elected not to do so.

"It is correct to say this is a complex issue. But what is not complex is the blatant special treatment that [learndirect] has been granted and confirmed by the Department for Education in order to protect the delivery of a Home Office contract."

The agency has also worked for the Cut Tourism VAT campaign, for Scottish football club Rangers, and with High Speed UK, an alternative to the Government's planned HS2.

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