The first report of the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI) highlights major
deficiencies in the provision of work-based learning for young people.
It reveals that 60 per cent of providers inspected during 2001/2002 were classified
"Poor achievement rates, poor grades, the inconsistency of standards
from area-of-learning to area-of-learning, paint a distressing picture,"
said chief inspector David Sherlock.
On average, just over a third (36 per cent) of young people starting an
advanced modern apprenticeship achieved their qualification, with completion
rates ranging from 59 per cent in engineering to 16 per cent in hospitality.
Key skills [the testing of communication, number and IT skills] proved to be the
biggest single cause of young people’s failure to complete apprenticeships.
Regional variations were apparent, with nearly half of the worst providers
located in the North East and North West. Employers training their own staff
generally delivered better training than private training providers. Many of
the highest-quality providers were employers in engineering, manufacturing or
front-line service industries such as health and defence.
The report accounts for the first inspections of government-funded training
carried out since the ALI succeeded the Training Standards Council in April
2001. At the launch of the report this summer, Sherlock acknowledged it had
been "a desperately tough year" for many providers. They had
experienced difficulties in coping with changes in funding and inspection
arrangements and in-creasing demands of apprenticeship frameworks.
In the transition of funding bodies from TECs to Learning and Skills
Councils (LSCs), local LSCs had failed to support providers and help them meet
new government requirements. But Sherlock added: "I cannot overlook a good
deal of evidence of low standards." He described the finding that 53 per
cent of providers were deficient in managing training as "deeply
A sharp fall in inspection grades prompted Sherlock to request the ALI’s
sponsoring department, the DfES, to investigate the reasons behind it. The
Learning and Skills Development Agency was commissioned to carry out the
investigation and presented its report, Making the Grade, in June. Based on its
findings, a government-backed action plan to reform work-based learning has
been developed. It embodies the commitment to examine the key skills issue, to
redefine what constitutes ‘achievement’ and to encourage the accumulation of individual
units so that learners can add to them and complete their qualification later
in their careers.
"Quantifiably, you would see very substantial improvement if all three
were acted upon," said Sherlock. He believes the system should be more
learner-centred and portable. "Our training system hasn’t kept pace with
efforts to create a flexible labour market and isn’t based on a notion of young
people who might change jobs quite often. We need to adjust our
By Elaine Essery