How Bud’s streamlined system helped Solace with Ofsted


SolaceSolace is the leading membership network for local government and public sector professionals, committed to promoting public sector excellence across the UK.

Solace implemented Bud in 2022, in part to better comply with Ofsted’s requirements. After being on Bud for around eight months, Solace underwent their Ofsted inspection and were delighted to achieve a Grade 2: Good rating.

We spoke to Mike Clarkson, Compliance and Quality Assurance Lead at Solace, who helped to implement Bud and oversaw Solace’s compliance processes ahead of their Ofsted visit.

Peace of mind in Bud’s tracking

When transitioning to Bud, Solace decided to keep their existing learners on their existing platforms and enrol any new learners onto Bud. Therefore, at the time of inspection, some learners were on Bud and some were on their incumbent systems.

The lead-up to an Ofsted inspection can be stressful, but Mike was confident about the learners on Bud because the platform automatically captures the evidence that inspectors want to see.

“We’d been running on Bud for six to eight months before Ofsted visited. I was enjoying seeing the platform working in practice, and using it quickly became second nature to the learners, the delivery team and all my colleagues. When I was contacted by the inspector, I wasn’t nervous because for our Bud learners I knew exactly where we were at,” Mike said.

A large part of this confidence came from Bud’s accurate data and tracking abilities. Mike explains that having accurate reporting from a single platform has given Solace a lot more clarity, whereas on their old systems they’d had to rely on manual calculations from data drawn from multiple systems.

“With Bud, you’ve got the off-the-job hours tracking and planned hours, then you receive the actual hours from learners on how long they’ve spent on an activity, whether it’s a piece of submitted work or online reading. This visibility has really helped us as a provider.”

The fact that it’s all done in the system and I don't have to calculate figures from multiple spreadsheets is brilliant. Bud has definitely made us feel a lot more compliant and streamlined, and I think Ofsted picked up on that and saw it as progress since their previous visit.

Mike Clarkson, Compliance and Quality Assurance Lead at Solace

Read more: Vital features of a training management platform

Common questions from Ofsted inspectors

Mike started by giving the Ofsted inspectors a quick tour of how Bud works. He explains that the inspectors had seen Bud before and, because it is so intuitive, they seemed to find it easy to navigate. While Solace’s incumbent platform involves “spreadsheet after spreadsheet”, it’s reassuring to have everything in one place and easily accessible on Bud.

“The common questions from the inspectors were about how many hours learners had completed and how they were tracked. There were lots of smiles and nods when they were looking through Bud, which gave me reassurance that we’d made the right decision switching platforms because everything is in one place,” Mike said.

The three main areas that Ofsted inspectors looked at were safeguarding, off-the-job hours and attendance. Mike explains there’s still a lot of interest in how Covid and changing delivery methods have impacted attendance, but otherwise there weren’t any “huge surprises”.

Read more: What are Ofsted inspectors looking for?

Full of energy and keen to get started

After receiving their Good rating from Ofsted, there’s no rest period planned for Mike and the Solace team. He describes the team as “hyped up and re-energised” to make further improvements on what they offer.

“We’ve approached the inspection like we’ve had paid consultants come in and review the business. Now we’ve got this great feedback on areas of development, and how to make the products we deliver really slick in order to set learners up for success,” Mike said.

“Bud has been a massive help so far with things like the programme build and structure, it will be vital for our business going forward too.”

Streamline operations and save time

If you’re struggling with a sluggish legacy system and are nervous about your next Ofsted visit, Mike strongly recommends moving to Bud and streamlining your operations. Even demonstrating an intent to move to Bud can be seen as a positive change.

“I was quite heavily involved in the procurement process and reviewing all the available platforms. We were very, very thorough. Bud was the stand-out across the board,” he said.

“It’s really helped us from an Ofsted perspective, but there are also little things like the new release of the group learning feature. Our customer success manager showed it to me last month and I was so impressed that I immediately called my colleagues who work in the same role and said, ‘I have to show you this because it’s going to save us so much time!’.”

Mike adds that Bud has helped to give Solace peace of mind around compliance and he will feel confident going into their next Ofsted inspection.

“When Ofsted next inspect us, whether it’s in two or five years' time, I’m sure I will feel as confident as I did when they visited us in February 2023. With Bud, everything is streamlined and in one place and we definitely won’t be working on several different systems.”

It’s so easy to use Bud’s system. I’ve seen it from all sides – the trainer aspect, the tutor aspect and the learner aspect – and it’s consistent across the board. I would fully recommend it.

Mike Clarkson, Compliance and Quality Assurance Lead at Solace

Find out more about Bud

Bud’s joined-up solution streamlines the processes required to capture evidence from enrolment to EPA. It provides support with many areas of training delivery, including:

  • Creating a consistent, easy-to-use digital learning environment that learners, employers and trainers will love
  • Capturing real-time business intelligence, giving training providers complete visibility over performance
  • Automatically collating evidence needed to demonstrate learner outcomes and hit compliance targets

Get in touch to learn more about how we can help you maximise your training performance or book a demo now.