On 13th March 2023, Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector of Ofsted, addressed the Annual Apprenticeship Conference, where she discussed several key topics relevant to apprenticeship providers. Here's a summary of her speech and its implications for apprenticeship providers.
Acknowledging success in the sector
Spielman commended the quality of apprenticeship providers, noting that two-thirds were rated as good or outstanding in recent inspections. She emphasised the importance of high-quality apprenticeships, particularly in the current economic climate, and praised providers for their role in helping individuals find the right career path.
"This is a wonderful example of how your work makes a difference. You can help the country meet its skills needs."
Workforce challenges and apprenticeship opportunities
The Chief Inspector acknowledged the difficulties providers face in recruiting and retaining specialist staff and the decline in level 2 and level 3 apprenticeship opportunities due to economic uncertainties. She highlighted the importance of addressing these challenges to continue offering high-quality training.
English and maths skills
Spielman expressed concerns about apprentices' English and maths skills, particularly in light of the pandemic's impact on education. She urged providers to carefully assess and improve their apprentices' skills in these areas and consider the following questions:
Are you identifying apprentices' starting points when they begin their training?
Are you using the information you gather to plan a suitable curriculum?
Are English and maths teachers working with vocational trainers to help apprentices learn these skills in a way that's relevant to their other training?
Funding and apprenticeship opportunities
She acknowledged concerns about the complexity of the apprenticeship levy and the billions of pounds returned to the Treasury since its introduction. Spielman welcomed the UCAS announcement of extending its service to apprenticeship vacancies and the Institute's review of funding for the 20 highest enrolling apprenticeships.
A need for improvement
While many providers are doing well, Spielman expressed concern about the slow pace of improvement, particularly among new providers. She emphasised the importance of accurate reporting to drive systemic change.
"We will always acknowledge the context, but we can’t soft-pedal on inspection. That wouldn’t be fair to you, and it wouldn’t be fair to the apprentices you train."
Achievement rates and high-quality educational experience
The Chief Inspector welcomed the DfE's target of a 67% apprenticeship achievement rate but emphasised the importance of addressing the reasons for low achievement rates. She stressed the need for high-quality training, a well-planned curriculum, and a balance between on- and off-the-job elements to ensure apprentices have a positive experience.
Workshops and support at the conference
Spielman announced several workshops at the conference, including sessions on- and off-the-job training, new provider monitoring visits, full inspections, and the popular "Ask the Inspector" sessions.
In conclusion, Amanda Spielman's speech at the Annual Apprenticeship Conference highlighted the successes and challenges faced by apprenticeship providers. By addressing these challenges and focusing on high-quality training, providers can continue to play a vital role in helping individuals find rewarding career paths and contribute to the country's skills needs.