From 1st April 2021 Ofsted will be responsible for inspecting apprenticeship provision at all levels, including degree apprenticeships, which were previously the responsibility of the Office for Students (OfS).
Naturally, providers and employers are asking what the change means for them. This article is intended to help higher education providers (HEPs) to ensure they are ready for the change.
Although the OfS was responsible for degree apprenticeships, there are no visit reports specifically covering degree apprenticeship delivery. An analysis of Ofsted reports on inspection of apprenticeship delivery at Level 4 and Level 5 being delivered by HEPs, gives us some insight into the main areas that Ofsted indicate require improvement:
- Apprentice starting points are not taken into account sufficiently to tailor programme delivery
- Whilst maths and English assessments are undertaken, the results are not then used to tailor delivery
- Apprentice attendance and learning progress is not recorded and reported well enough to mitigate risk
- Management information is lacking or insufficient to ensure programme quality
- Programme delivery does not take account of British values and radicalisation risks
The key positives that feature in these reports are:
- The strategic significance of apprenticeship provision, where this fits with the organisational strategy and vision
- The strength of management and leadership of provision
- Quality of programme design, including employer input
- Good quality teaching and assessment
- Effectiveness of information, advice and guidance
- Safeguarding arrangements
- Partnership working with employers
- Apprentice completion rates
- Progression opportunities
Taking account of the report positives, the areas that often require improvement, and sector intelligence, gives us an idea of the key areas that HEPs need to focus on.
Always be prepared.
Ofsted want to see provision as it would normally take place, so they only give 48 hours’ notice of an inspection, leaving no real time to prepare anything. In effect, this means that providers must always be prepared. A periodic mock inspection helps ensure that staff are prepared, but is time consuming and never truly motivates in the same way that the real inspection does.
Make sure the degree apprenticeship is an apprenticeship.
One of the biggest complaints about degree apprenticeships being delivered by some HEPs is that they have simply rebadged an existing degree, to take advantage of apprenticeship funding. This is certainly something that Ofsted will be looking out for.
Delivering a high quality degree, certainly does not mean that the apprenticeship will be high quality. Ofsted will only be reviewing the apprenticeship, the degree itself will still be covered by the OfS. IFATE provide guidance on what a high quality apprenticeship should be: https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/quality/what-is-a-quality-apprenticeship/
Each apprentice should have their own individual plan of learning, taking account of their starting position, their learning style, their job role and their maths and English needs. This needs to be a working document and must form an important part of the programme.
Learner progress, career advice and progression opportunities should be considered individually too.
Employer partnership working.
Apprenticeships are a tri-partite agreement between providers, apprentices and employers. Ofsted will be looking at curricula and real signs of partnership working in the design and delivery of programmes.
Monitoring and management.
Inspectors will want to see comprehensive evidence of both on and off-the-job activities being recorded, with activities being planned and correctly sequenced. Apprentices and their employers should know where the apprentice is up to and what remains, together with any issues that need to be addressed.
Ensuring the safety of apprentices and indeed HEP staff, is essential at all times whether learning is taking place in person or online. Some providers may think that safeguarding is more appropriate within school or college teaching, but this is equally important for degree apprenticeship delivery. Ofsted will be looking to make sure that providers are instructing apprentices in how to adhere with British values, how to stay safe and how to identify signs of potential radicalisation.