The quality of apprenticeships remains a concern, finds Ofsted report

Ofsted has released its annual education and skills report, discovering that of the 190 apprenticeship programmes inspected this year, 72 were judged to require improvement and 21 were inadequate, affecting around 73,000 apprentices.

Ofsted chief inspector Michael Wilshaw submitted his annual report into the UK’s education sector this week, which is underpinned by the findings of over 5,000 inspections of schools, colleges and providers of further education and skills.


What did the report find?

In his letter to Nicky Morgan, Wilshaw explained that ‘there is a troubling gap between the performance of secondary schools in the North and Midlands and secondary schools in the rest of the country,’ adding that the gap is contributing towards a lack of opportunity for people in the region.

‘This year we found that many of the programmes on offer were failing to give apprentices the skills and knowledge employers want,’ stated the BIS document.

‘Too many low-skilled roles were being classed as apprenticeships and used to accredit the established skills of employees who had been in a job for some time. In some cases, apprentices were not even aware that the course they were on was an apprenticeship,’ continued the report.

The report also found that:

  • The number of 16- to 18-year-olds being taken on as apprentices is almost as low today as it was a decade ago. In 2014/15, 43 per cent of places went to apprentices over the age of 25.
  • The majority of general FE colleges inspected this year were judged less than good – just 35 per cent judged good or outstanding, this reflects the fact that general FE colleges are struggling on a number of fronts.
  • The proportion of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) rose considerably during the recession but has fallen steadily since 2011.
  • However, the proportion of young people over 18 who are NEET remains very high, and there are more young people who are NEET in the North and Midlands than the rest of the country.
  • A quarter of employers who responded to Ofsted’s survey on apprenticeships said that the reason they did not take on young people in apprenticeships was because the young people did not have the basic skills, attitudes and behaviours required for work.

NEET graph 2


How has the report been received?

Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), was expecting the report, which has been released early in the school year, to be rather negative towards apprenticeships and further education, but recognises that there have been some improvements within the sector over the past 12 months.

‘It is pleasing that in respect of independent learning providers, Ofsted has found the percentage of training providers who are judged good or outstanding has increased again in 2015 to 79 per cent, up a point from last year and an increase of 10% in 2 years,’ said Segal, who added that any apprenticeship reforms need to take quality, rather than quantity, into account.

‘The resulting system must also be simple and easy for employers to use and it should lead to the employer commitment and improvement in quality that we all want to see,’ concluded the chief executive.