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Hello, I’m Marina Gaze and I’m here to talk to you today about my top tips for staying on the register of apprenticeship training providers.

The top three tips that I have are

  • ensure you’re provision meets apprenticeship requirements
  • ensure apprentices are prepared for end-point assessments
  • and ensure progress against all aspects of the apprenticeship is closely monitored

I’m going to talk to you about each of those in more detail now.

First of all let’s look at the challenges providers are facing meeting the apprenticeship requirements.

Well, reading Ofsted monitoring visit reports it seems one of the biggest challenges providers face is simply meeting the apprenticeship requirements. For example for 20% off-the-job training.

I think this is for a range of reasons, new providers have a lack of familiarity with requirements and what they mean in practice. For some providers they’re struggling to come to grips with what being a direct deliverer means. Having moved from being a subcontractor some new providers are just not clear with employers about the increased requirements for them to be involved in the apprenticeship and some providers are just not providing CPD for staff, particularly those who may have been involved with apprenticeships for a long time or with the old train-to-gain model and who need to adjust their practice to meet current expectations.

So what action do I think providers can take to ensure they do meet the apprenticeship requirements?
Well, it may seem obvious but first of all, ensure you have read and understood the guidance.
Read Ofsted reports and honestly ask yourself how your provision compares with provision described in the reports.
Join local networks and talk to other providers, particularly those you know who are doing things well, so you can learn from them.
If you’ve moved from being a subcontractor to a direct contract holder, ensure you have strengthened your leadership and management to reflect this. For example, ensuring governance arrangements and checks on apprentices progress are robust.
If you’re delivering standards where you have previously delivered frameworks you need to ensure staff who were previously assessors have received the CPD and support they need to make the move to becoming tutors who can plan and facilitate learning. And you need to ensure job descriptions are updated to reflect this.
You have to ensure you have enough staff to deliver the program. I know it sounds obvious but no matter how wonderful your intentions if apprentices are not being visited regularly by your staff or if they do not have staff who can help with functional skills development, then you are unlikely to be providing your apprentices and employers with high quality experiences.
You also need to recruit apprentices with integrity and to know that employers will act with integrity to their apprentices.
Apprenticeships should develop new knowledge, skills and behaviours against the standards. If apprentices are only being assessed for skills they’ve been demonstrating for years or if the apprenticeship is only a vehicle for
employers CPD, which does not meet the standards, then you are not offering an apprenticeship.
Ensure initial assessment identifies relevant prior learning that apprentices may already have and adapt training and the associated costs to take into account the prior learning.
The ESFA has tightened up the prior learning section within their 2018-2019 funding rules and say that they will take funding back from providers over-charging by failing to account for existing knowledge, skills and behaviours.
Ensure apprenticeships are individualised to meet individual need. You need to quickly identify any additional support needs apprentices may have and not wait until you realise the apprentices struggle, for example, when they fail their functional skills.
Too often, off-the-job training, particularly if apprentices are say attending a college course with a set start and end date, is not individualised to meet apprentices needs and involves all apprentices learning the same thing at the same time, regardless of what they already know and what they can do.
You need to ensure that reference is made during off-the-job training to what apprentices do at work and that the links are clear to the apprentice.
Employers need to be much more closely involved in all aspects of the apprenticeship than they previously were. It’s not enough for the employer to simply be involved in choosing the optional units. Employers should be involved in initial assessment, helping to establish apprentices starting points against knowledge, skills and behaviours. And then employers should be involved in planning how the 20% off-the-job training will be used to fill the gaps highlighted through the initial assessment process, to ensure apprentices can meet the standards.
Employers should also be involved in reviews of apprentices progress and setting future targets and actions. Too often, the reviews I see contain only bland employer comments such as “X is doing well” or in many cases, there are no employer comments at all. Even when employers are involved in reviews they’re rarely involved in identifying what the apprentice needs to do or improve next or what steps they, the employer, will take to support this.
You need to co-ordinate on and off the job and make it relevant to the apprentice.
You need to ensure that employers are giving apprentices the opportunity to put their learning into practice and to develop the skills they need for their new roles.
Even when apprentices join with the required qualifications in English and Maths, they need to continue to develop those skills, for example, through application in the workplace and through off-the-job training.
The development of English and Maths, and IT skills, should be a focus of reviews. Too often on review paperwork I see such comments as “Y continues to develop her maths skills” rather than the apprentice reflecting on how they’ve developed and applied those skills in the workplace or being set further tasks to help them, the apprentice, develop those skills further.
I would advise you to cease working with employers who do not provide enough training and support for apprentices and place those apprentices with more suitable employers to make sure the apprentices are getting the best possible experience that they can.

There are lots of examples of best practice out there and I have been lucky enough to see much good practice.

In the best practice I see all apprentices receive a thorough assessment of their prior attainment, knowledge and what they can do before starting their program. This includes identification of any additional learning needs they may have. The advantage of using Cognassist is that it quickly identifies learning needs and has material which apprentices access to help them best develop independent learning strategies that work for them.

In the best provision tutors make very good use of this initial assessment information to plan apprentices on and off-the-job training and any associated learning support needs.

In the best practice that I see some employers have a very good internal nomination or sponsorship process which is used to ensure potential apprentices will have the range of support responsibilities and experiences they need to achieve their apprenticeship.

The employers directors and senior managers are involved in the delivery of the off-the-job training to ensure apprentices understand the employers expectations.

In the best practice I see employers are involved in each review and as well as reflecting on the progress apprentices have made at work are involved in setting their targets. Showing for example how apprentices will be given tasks to put literacy and numeracy into practice at work or be given further coaching and development, for example, to ensure apprentices develop certain behaviors at work.

Giving employers more forward notice of what they will be expected to comment on reviews, to better prepare their answers also results in much more purposeful reviews.

In the best provision employers can access online monitoring systems to view their apprentices progress.

Larger employers who are held to account by their executives use these reports well to prove that the levy is being spent well.

Providers staff providing employers with a good range of reports on apprentices progress including attendance reports, qualification tracking, term dates and copies of any certificates the apprentices achieved attached to the review the employer receives is also very good practice.

My next top tip is to ensure that apprentices are prepared throughout their program for their endpoint assessment.

Looking at the key challenges that providers face, well I think that there’s a general lack of awareness.

First of all are the introduction of fail, pass, merit and distinction with the standards and I think also it’s a general lack of understanding of what can be done to ensure apprentices achieve a distinction. Too often I see provider staff focusing on the NVQ or the qualification and not preparing apprentices throughout the program for the end-point assessment methods and requirements.

Rarely do I see employers and apprentices who know that the end-point assessment is graded most assume it’s just pass or fail like frameworks. Too often leaders and governors don’t know about the grading either.

Apprentices need appropriate support and development to help them prepare for end-point assessments. For example, if they have to participate in a professional discussion about the standards they need to practice this skill, preferably with someone they’re not familiar with as they will be assessed by someone they’re not familiar with and they need to start practicing this early in their program.

Too often apprentices I see are not routinely being stretched and challenged to produce the best work they can or on standards to routinely achieve distinction. Although apprentices often receive positive feedback on their work, providers aren’t as good at giving developmental feedback which will help the apprentice improve even further. Even in the rare cases where I see apprentices were marked say as merit I don’t see feedback to the apprentice on what they need to do to improve that work distinction level.

So what actions do I think you can take?

Well, raise all staff and governor’s awareness of the pass merit and distinction criteria for standards first of all.

Encourage more staff to train as end-point assessment Assessors so they understand fully how end-point assessment organisations make assessment decisions.

Develop a set of criteria for each standard to ensure staff and apprentices know what apprentices work needs to look like to achieve distinction.

Involve apprentices in a wide range of assessment methods to prepare them for their EPA from early on in their program.

Use what worked well, and even better, use as a framework for giving feedback.

Ensure apprentices act on that feedback and that their work improves as a result.

Make sure that their timelines for resubmitting work are clear and that they do resubmit.

Review and feedback to apprentices about their progress towards achieving distinction throughout their program. Don’t leave it until the end!

Ensure plans include time for apprentices to complete any remedial work if required and to prepare them thoroughly for any gateway assessments they need to pass.

Before they take their end-point assessment encourage staff to attend end-point assessment organisation networking events to develop staff confidence and their knowledge of endpoint assessment.

Look at developing a system to identify at what point in their programs apprentices should be where with knowledge, skills and behavior; and intervene swiftly if these points are not being met.

Ensure staff have professional updating so their knowledge of best industry practice remains up to date and they can share it with apprentices and employers.

So in some of the best providers that I have been to apprentices benefit from a program of practice endpoint tests that prepare them well for their final assessments.

Apprentices receive detailed and constructive feedback on their performance in these practice tests so that they know what they have to do to improve.

In the best examples that I see many apprentices have been encouraged to and are working at distinction level.

The best providers give their apprentices relevant and useful extension activities to help their apprentices exceed the requirements even at the distinction criteria.

Coaches teach stimulating sessions that are challenging apprentices to analyze critically and to evaluate their own work so apprentices understand how to self assess the quality of their own work and improve it further.

Coaches use their industry expertise and knowledge very well to share real situations so that apprentices remember and can recall important information. For example to illustrate health and safety in the workshop instructors might discuss resulting injuries caused and if rings or equipment are trapped in machinery and how to avoid these dangers.

In the best sessions coaches use apprentices workplace experiences creatively to enrich discussions and share ways to solve problems.

So my third top tip is to ensure that progress against all aspects of the apprenticeship is closely monitored

So what are the challenges that I think that providers are facing?

Well clearly now there’s much more emphasis on the development of new knowledge skills and behavior and ensuring and proving that apprenticeships are not just the old trained to gain model. Being able to show that apprentices are learning new things; that’s their knowledge and that they can apply them through their skills is also a challenge for many providers. Being able to show that you’re measuring the development of this new learning and that apprentices are making good progress towards their Gateway and EPA seems to be particularly challenging. Moving away just from talking about progress towards qualifications. There also needs to be much more emphasis on being able to report in year for example to governor’s and leaders, about apprentices progress.

I think that this is all further made challenging by a lack of guidance from some of the endpoint assessment organisations of what actually constitutes a distinction or what indicators during the program would suggest an apprentice is producing distinction level work. For example, if a learners taking a GCSE or an a-level, past papers and past scripts are available for scrutiny so everyone is aware of what makes a grade A answer but we don’t yet have that for our end-point assessment and our distinction level answers.

so what actions do I think you can take

well to measure progress you need to have an accurate picture of your apprentices starting points. That’s one of the reasons why thorough initial assessment to identify apprentices starting points against knowledge, skills and behaviors, English and maths and additional learning support needs is so important.

And you need to know what the apprentice has to achieve to meet the standards and succeed in the end-point assessment then
I think you need to set milestones or targets and work backwards to plan how knowledge skills and behaviors will be learnt throughout the program

remember that as well as qualification tracking you need to track knowledge, skills and behaviors

you need to involve the employer and the apprentice in reviewing achievements of targets and setting new ones

apprentices and provider staff may need CPD and support to identify the actions needed to develop specific behaviors in the
context of their industry

think about how often you will measure progress will it be every visit, every review and remember learning isn’t linear, when tackling new topics it may look as if learning has slowed down or even gone backwards. That’s normal.

Think about how and when apprentices, employers and provider staff will input into the system. This may be easier if you have an online system that they can access.

Hold standardisation meetings to standardise judgments on progress so that you know that all your staff have the same understanding of what constitutes progress and ensure that you routinely promote the requirements to provide the full off-the-job training to apprentices and their employers. Provide clear guidance for apprentices and employers about what constitutes off-the-job training. Monitor apprentices off-the-job training and ensure apprentices do not have to complete their studies in their own time.

Work collaboratively with employers to ensure new and existing apprentices know what career paths are available to them.

So what’s the best practice that I see?

Well, in the best practice coaches and managers check apprentices progress thoroughly and often, they know which apprentices are most at risk of not achieving their qualification or their overall apprenticeship.

Staff are aware of apprentices who may need additional help to understand topics better or to pass the module exams and they work well with employers to ensure that apprentices receive whatever they need to be successful. Staff intervene quickly and successfully to remedy slow progress and to support apprentices who need more help so they get back on track.

In the best provision, the vast majority of current apprentices are on track to achieve their qualification by their planned end date because the system of monitoring progress and intervention works.

In the best provision all groups achieve equally well and no gaps exist for example between levy, non-levy, males and females, subjects areas or apprentices with or without a declared learning support need.

In the best provision additional learning support needs are quickly identified and support puts in place so apprentices can study with confidence and pace.

Providers have strong links with employers and are demanding of them in the development of apprentices.

Providers make effective use of apprentices reflective logs and progress reviews to ensure that apprentices are trained at work and get a sufficient time away from work for further study.

Employers contribute particularly effectively to apprentices learning so that apprentices develop the skills and behaviors that they need at work.

Evidence of employers assessments of apprentices competence being used, for example, in appraisals and one-to-ones to measure progress and plan further learning is apparent.

Governance is fully effective in challenging the apprenticeship provision. Governors received reports about the apprenticeship programs which focus well on the quality of teaching learning and assessment and the progress which apprentices make from their starting points. Governors have a good understanding of apprenticeships policy and the common inspection framework and can support and challenge leaders and managers aswell.

So those are my top tips and I hope you found them useful.

Thank you.