Dyslexia student support firm closes after MPs’ criticisms

Director of Claro Learning has complained his firm was unfairly attacked by Margaret Hodge

February 23, 2016
Roland Levinsky Building (RLB), Plymouth University
Source: Alamy
Plymouth University: its students received 7.5 per cent of England’s Disabled Students’ Allowances budget, the NAO found

A company criticised by MPs over the large amount of taxpayer funding it received for student dyslexia support services has closed.

Claro Learning, a provider of disability support services at several universities across the South West, ceased trading at the end of December, according to Plymouth University, having informed the Student Loans Company of its decision to close in September.

It follows accusations in March 2015 by the influential Commons Public Accounts Committee that the Tavistock-based firm had unduly profited from delivering dyslexia support to students at Plymouth.

Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP who chaired the committee at that time, said she believed the firm had “behaved outrageously” by giving students a standardised package rather than prescribing dyslexia help according to individual needs, in what she called a “misuse of public money”.

Her claims followed a National Audit Office report into Claro’s activities at Plymouth, which found that the university’s students received 7.5 per cent of England’s entire Disabled Students’ Allowances budget, despite making up less than 1 per cent of its undergraduate numbers.

Those assessed by Access South West – part of Claro Learning – received an average DSA payment of £4,759, more than double the average received by other disabled students, it said.

Ms Hodge condemned the fact that Claro was both assessor and provider of dyslexia support, although the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that it “did not find any evidence of misuse of funding”, nor did the arrangement breach any rules.

However, Martin Donnelly, permanent secretary at BIS, told the PAC last year he was “not at all satisfied with how we handled this”. New checks on the allocation of grants, worth £145.8 million in 2012-13 for 64,500 students, were instituted shortly afterwards, as was a new accreditation scheme for providers.

Universities have also been encouraged to look more closely at their spending on dyslexia support after it was announced in December that English institutions will take “primary responsibility” for this area from 2016-17, rather than relying on DSA.

Times Higher Education has been unable to reach Claro, whose website has been deactivated, for comment. However, the company said last year that its higher-than-average payments were a result of “rapid engagement of students” and it had “operated entirely within current guidelines”.

In addition, one of its directors, Jeremy Fox, complained last year that his company had been “MargaretHodged”, which he described as the “act of browbeating individuals and organisations on the basis of questionable evidence, while enjoying the impunity afforded by parliamentary privilege”.

In an article published on the Open Democracy UK blog, Mr Fox described Ms Hodge’s assertions as “shocking detail[s] made up, as we could have easily demonstrated, of cheap tat that wouldn’t survive a first laundering in the waters of truth”.

jack.grove@tesglobal.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Related universities

POSTSCRIPT:

Print headline: Disability support firm closes its doors

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest