Ofsted cannot cope with apprentice trainer workload

The Prince of Wales meets apprentices in September last year
Andrew Milligan/PA Wire/PA Images

The education regulator has admitted struggling to deal with the number of companies offering training following the introduction of the apprenticeship levy last year.

Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman told The Times that she had been speaking to the Department for Education (DfE) about resources for the assessment of apprenticeship training providers.

Last year 189 providers training 187,000 apprentices were inspected by Ofsted: only 6% were found to be outstanding, 43% were deemed to be good, 40% required improvement and 11% were inadequate.

Compare this to schools and last year Ofsted found only 9% required improvement and just 2% were inadequate.

The introduction of the apprenticeship levy has led to a dramatic fall in the number of apprentice starts according to DfE figures. There were 43,600 new apprenticeships started last summer, a 61% drop compared to summer 2016.

However, the Government target of 3 million apprentices by 2020 looks at risk unless more training providers can be inspected. Critics have raised doubts about apprentice training standards and accused the Government of putting quantity before quality.

Figures from Ofsted suggest 20% of apprentices – approximately 37,000 people – are being taught by inadequate providers.

A DfE spokesman told The Times that all apprenticeship training providers had “been through a rigorous application process” that considered a “variety of measures including quality and a provider’s capability to deliver high-quality apprenticeship training”.

“Where a provider has been rated inadequate, the Education and Skills Funding Agency has provisions to ensure that learners continue to receive high-quality training.”

The education select committee launched an inquiry into the quality of apprenticeships and skills training two months ago. It will examine whether employers, learners and tax payers are getting sufficient value for the money invested in training, and whether more needs to be done to detect poor-quality provision.

When asked about the high number of training providers rated less than good, Joe Dromey, senior research fellow at the Institute of Public Policy research, told a committee hearing last week: “The reality may be worse than that, and that is because Ofsted obviously has a risk-based approach to assessing apprenticeship providers, where it focuses on those that it is most concerned about.

“That is understandable when you have had a massive increase in the volume of apprenticeship delivery and indeed a significant increase in the volume of apprenticeship providers, at the same time as a significant budget cut to Ofsted. Ofsted has had to target its resources where it is most concerned.”

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