Apprenticeship reforms: what might an Ofsted inspection report say 12 months from now?

Apprenticeship reforms: what might an Ofsted inspection report say 12 months from now?

In my conversations with training providers and colleges, the topic of Ofsted adapting to the new world of apprenticeship reforms seems to be occupying the minds of managers and trainers alike.

“How can we be held accountable for timely achievement when we are not in control of when end-point assessment is undertaken?’

“How will Ofsted inspectors be able to see if a learner is progressing if there aren’t any qualifications?”

“The policy requires an apprentice to sit but not necessarily pass maths and English for an apprentice to progress through the gateway. The potential damage this will do to our success rates (and therefore inspection outcome) is a real worry.”

Of the first, I suspect we will get some clarity over the coming months. I don’t doubt training providers will continue to be held to account for the success of apprentices. The timeliness of end-point assessment is a factor which must surely be considered, particularly in the early days of implementation.

Of the second, this is in the control of the training provider to ensure their own systems and processes for monitoring and managing the apprentice’s progress towards the gateway are robust.

The third concern is one I share. Clarity is needed as to how this will operate in practice, where we have a potential disjoint between what policy requires and how inspection interprets the provider’s response to it.

Back to my original question ‘what might an Ofsted inspection report say 12 months from now?’

My response is this; broadly the same as it does now.

Our team here regularly drill down into the content of Ofsted reports when working with clients.

What we find is (and whilst this list is not exhaustive) the activities likely to result in at least ‘good’ provision are:

  • Focused initial assessment
  • Trainers/ assessors have excellent vocational knowledge
  • Off the job training is well planned
  • High expectations of learners
  • Progress is monitored frequently and robustly
  • Good coaching, mentoring and support
  • Feedback to learner is good and directs learning
  • Maths and English delivery is strong
  • Apprenticeships are designed to meet employer needs
  • Good communication with employers

The gaps which are likely to appear in a report where the provision is deemed to be at best ‘requires improvement’:

  • Lack of targets for learners
  • Sessions are not planned well enough
  • Frequency of contact is variable
  • Ongoing assessment is not rigorous enough
  • Limited feedback/ unstructured
  • Management systems to review progress are weak
  • Self-assessment/ improvement planning is weak

We can no doubt expect to see reference to the pull of end-point assessment factored into on-programme delivery.  For example, preparing the apprentice for end-point assessment and quality of feedback helping to stretch learners, aligned to grading boundaries.

Both examples given above should be in place regardless of the route – qualifications or not – the apprentice takes. Good quality training and education is good quality training and education when we can cut through the noise. The inclusion of on-programme qualifications does not automatically result in quality or progress. Do we need such things as a benchmark for quality of A-levels or degree programmes for example? Whilst there are legitimate reasons to include them, I don’t think we should fear an alternative, where the badge of honour is the apprenticeship certificate itself.

Afterall, if we always do, what we have always done, we will get what we have always got.

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