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ViewPoint: Four Things We Can do to Make Sure that T-levels Are Not Another Wasted Opportunity
July 2, 2019
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Youngsters today are likely to have a 50-year career. T-levels can play a major role in equipping them, if we keep certain strategies in mind, says Stephen Evans

As we wait to find out who will succeed Theresa May, and whether this leads to a changed ministerial team in the Department for Education, one thing that is unlikely to change is the focus on T-levels as a key way to improve skills. How do we make sure they help people in their career aspirations and deliver the skills needs of employers?

The latest report from our Youth Commission, which we set up to consider how to improve education and employment outcomes for young people, shows that young people are likely to have 50-year careers. This means they are likely to change roles a number of times. 

Even if they stay in the same occupation, the skills needed in that occupation are likely to change dramatically. Our report, Tomorrow’s World: Future of the Labour Market, considers how the labour market is likely to change during young people’s working lives, and suggests a number of issues we need to consider in order to make T-levels fit for the future.

Firstly, T-levels need to be both specific, and broad: specific enough to deliver the skills to equip students for their chosen occupational role now, and sufficiently broad in content to focus on how young people can adapt to change and build core employability skills in the future. 

Secondly, T-levels need to be part of a pathway; it’s no good having the best T-levels in the world if there is insufficient progression into them from below level 3, and also pathways from T-levels into more advanced learning.

And we additionally need support for young people who may have done A-levels or other vocational qualifications, but now want to take a different path. We also need to consider how T-levels could or should apply to adults, wanting to update their skills or change careers. 

Likewise, place matters too: what about young people living in an area with too few employers to offer an industry placement? We need to find solutions to ensure T-levels deliver across the country. 

Third, the qualification needs to be recognised by employers. The government is currently grappling with whether to stop funding other vocational qualifications, such as BTECs, or wait until T-levels are the most popular choice before turning off funding for other qualifications. 

Leaving aside that there are some areas that T-levels won’t cover, you don’t make one qualification more credible by stopping the funding of the ones that are in place already. The new qualification on the block will be valued by employers once they are convinced that they have equipped young recruits with the skills they need: given the gradual roll-out of T-levels, this will take time.

The fourth point to consider is the help offered to employers. Our research shows that they want to deliver the industry placement element of T-levels, but they are confused by the array of demands from various government departments. 

Are T-level industry placements a bigger priority than apprenticeships, work placements, work experience etc? If everything’s a priority, then in practice, nothing is.

Finally, we need an overall vision for lifelong learning that sets T-levels in context. The previous decade probably saw too many skills strategies, and it has often felt like a “once in a generation” chance to make things right every few years. But now we have gone to the other extreme of having no strategy. 

Strategies are not the answer to everything but, combined with local leadership, they can support a partnership approach with employers that allows prioritisation and coordination. As our report notes, we don’t know what all future skills requirements will be, but we do know the core basis and the need to build in flexibility.

T-levels are not a silver bullet and we shouldn’t oversell them; there is also a risk that they could follow previous efforts, such as Diplomas, into the lessons of history. But if we work together, set T-levels into the wider context, and work strategically with employers, there is a real opportunity, this time, for things to be different.

Apprenticeship Providers: What You Need to Know About Ofsted
July 2, 2019
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One of the topics keeping new apprenticeship providers awake at night is the prospect of Ofsted inspection. The regime for inspection of new apprenticeship providers changed in 2018, here’s a summary of what you can expect. (Article first published in December 2018)

If you’re a new training provider directly funded for delivering apprenticeships from or after April 2017, rather than the usual full or short inspection, you should expect a new monitoring visit from Ofsted.

When?

Normally within 24 months of the start of the funding, that’s when you first start delivering funded learning not the date you first got onto the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers which might have been much earlier.

How?

You’ll be given two working days’ notice. The visits normal last up to two days and the report will be published on https://www.gov.uk/find-ofsted-inspection-report.

Inspectors will make judgements against different themes to the previous full or short inspections. They are:

“How much progress have leaders & managers made to ensure….?

  • the provider is meeting all the requirements of successful apprenticeship provision.
  • apprentices benefit from high-quality training that leads to positive outcomes for apprentices
  • effective safeguarding arrangements are in place.
  • learners benefit from high-quality adult education that prepares them well for their intended job role, career aims and/or personal goals” (only applicable to providers delivering adult education).

Rather than being graded from grade 1: Outstanding to grade 4: Inadequate, monitoring visits use a new judgement grading:

  • insufficient progress: progress has been either slow or insubstantial or both, and the demonstrable impact on learners has been negligible.
  • reasonable progress: action taken by the provider is already having a beneficial impact on learners and improvements are sustainable and are based on the provider’s thorough quality assurance procedures.
  • significant progress: progress has been rapid and is already having considerable beneficial impact on learners.

These judgements are awarded against each of the four themes as well as an overall judgement being awarded.

What happens after your monitoring visit?

You can expect your first full inspection within 24 months of the publication of the report from your monitoring visit.

Unless:

  1. You have had one or more ‘insufficient progress’ judgements which results in full inspection within 6 to 12 months or:
  2. The effectiveness of your safeguarding arrangements was awarded an ‘insufficient progress’. This results in one further monitoring visit to review only safeguarding within four months of the visit, rather than publication of the report as that may be some weeks after the visit.

If your only insufficient progress judgement relates to safeguarding and following the second monitoring visit you receive a judgement of reasonable or significant progress for safeguarding, you will not then have an overall judgement of insufficient progress. The full inspection will then take place within 24 months from the publication of the first monitoring visit report.

Why the change?

This change seems to have been brought about as a response to three key factors:

  1. With the proliferation of apprenticeship providers since the launch of the ROATP, many of whom have no track record of apprenticeship delivery, there have been increasing concerns about assuring the quality of these new providers. Ofsted inspections are an evidence-based process, using achievement rates as a key measure of quality. With apprenticeships varying in length from 1-4 years, that achievement data just isn’t available for new providers.
  2. The change also recognises the transition from Frameworks, which are made up of component aims which are achieved throughout the duration of the apprenticeship, to Standards which may contain no component qualifications.
  3. Ofsted seems to be shifting its focus from achievement rates and exam results to measuring outcomes for learners. These might include securing employment or promotion to a different role, progression to further learning as well as softer outcomes such as increased confidence. This is a much fairer basis on which to judge the effectiveness of provision because it takes into account the distance a learner has travelled, rather than relying heavily on achievement data.

Ofsted plan to launch a consultation in January 2019 to overhaul the Common Inspection Framework (CIF), although we already know that the biggest change is towards an outcomes-based approach. 

Other things to consider 
  • What are “….all the requirements of successful apprenticeship provision”?   Have a look at the Common Inspection Framework as well as the  Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) Quality Statement which sets out  the requirements of an apprenticeship. How do you prove that you have the processes and controls in place to ensure that all the requirements are met? Don’t forget that they are looking at progressyou have made to ensure that you can do it, not necessarily whether you have already achieved it. For example, for off-the-job learning, they will  look at  the quality of the training being delivered, rather than the detail of exactly how many hours each learner has spent off-the-job. It’s only if they think that you are delivering less than the 20% requirement or crucially that the quality of delivery is lacking, that they may look at recorded actual hours.  
  • Progress: how do you manage exceptions? How do you identify and support learners who are behind target – or just as importantly, how do you add challenge and stretch for learners who are racing ahead? To measure progress against targets you need to know your learner’s starting points based on an in-depth initial assessment and understand and record their personal and learning goals. Eportfolio tools such as eTrack can help you monitor each learner’s progress.
  • Is your safeguarding policy effective? This doesn’t just mean having a safeguarding policy in place. Does everyone in the organisation know about the policy and how it relates to them, from apprentices to the CEO? And can you prove what you have done to ensure that they know about it, understand it and know what to do if they identify a safeguarding issue? If you’ve had any safeguarding issues, how have these been handled, and do you have records of this?

With FE Week recording that “a quarter of apprenticeship providers that have received early-monitoring visits from Ofsted so far have been rated ‘insufficient progress’”, preparing for Ofsted should be a top priority for new providers.