It is unsurprising that we have seen an increase in the number of employer providers on the register of apprenticeship training providers (ROATP) as the apprenticeship levy has come into being. I suspect there will be more to come. This process of registration allows employers, whose main business activities often sit outside of training and education, to deliver apprenticeships and draw down the associated levy payment.
In principle this seems like a perfectly sensible route to take for many organisations. A mixed economy often emerges; if a single organisation has the skill set in-house, they deliver the apprenticeships. Where they don’t, for example, in specialist role such as those in their IT or accountancy departments, they procure the delivery with external specialist apprenticeship providers. So far so good.
However, in our experience, what can come as a shock to the system for new employer providers is the quality assurance policies and processes required to deliver high quality apprenticeships, far outweigh the quality assurance requirements for short, sharp training interventions. Moreover, it is one thing to have the policies and processes and tick that particular box, it is quite another thing to ensure they have a positive impact.
The wrong time to find out such things aren’t effective, is the time when Ofsted pay a visit.
In reviewing the 22 Ofsted inspection reports for employer providers from March 2016-March 2017 we noted the following in relation to quality assurance and more specifically, the robustness of self-assessment and improvement planning:
In all 9 cases, where the provider was judged as either requires improvement or inadequate, the Ofsted report makes explicit reference to the need to improve either the overall approach to quality assurance or more specifically for the purposes of this post, self-assessment and improvement planning.
Here are some examples:
“Leaders and managers should increase the level of objectivity of quality review processes, and sharpen resultant action plans.”
“Quality assurance and quality improvement arrangements, including the observation of teaching and learning, have not resulted in sufficient improvements since the previous inspection.”
“Further develop the quality assurance arrangements to offer the programme manager and the assessors a clear understanding of the quality of teaching, learning and assessment experienced by apprentices and how this affects apprentices’ progress.”
“Establish quickly a detailed and comprehensive action plan to rectify all areas for improvement identified in this inspection.”
“Leaders and managers should conduct a thorough self-evaluation of the apprenticeship programme to ensure that they critically evaluate the strengths and areas for improvement, including the performance of sub-contractor.
Robust quality assurance/ self assessment features in 8 of the 13 reports for employer providers judged to be good or outstanding. In some cases it refers to self-assessment and quality improvement planning as a development requirement to move the provider from good to outstanding.
All being said, there is one judgement which sums up what is expected:
“The self-assessment report is accurate and evaluative.”