From education to employment

Something Is Rotten In The State Of Denmark

Dr Paul Phillips is principal and chief executive of Weston College, Weston-super-Mare
Are you suffering apprenticeship meltdown? The world of apprenticeships is one that is getting bigger and more mysterious by the minute. 
If we look back to its origins, we find the roots of the word in the Old French aprentiz meaning ‘someone learning’ and the Anglian suffix scip meaning ‘state, condition of being’. The dictionary definition for apprenticeship is ‘when someone is in a state or condition of learning from a master in the field.’ 
The phrase ‘a master in the field’ is very interesting, especially in the context of the register of apprenticeship training providers: could it be said that those on the register meet that definition, contributing as masters?
For me the question is: are members on the register proven professionals in their field? 
One of my partners, for instance, has separated from the College, paid an extortionate amount of money to a consultant to write their ROATP application, and now will be going it alone. 
That’s fine, but when we were partners the level of scrutiny we had to put in – regarding validation of data, value added, progress and so on – monitoring them rigorously and continually, was significant. Now they are on their own. 
I also hear horrific stories (perhaps urban myths?) of companies being approved who have never delivered an apprenticeship in their entire existence. Surely this is serious, especially when respected colleagues in other FE colleges are denied the chance at present to get on the register.
Interestingly, the speech by Amanda Spielman approaches the issue from almost the opposite end of the spectrum. 
“I will not be using my position at Ofsted to impose my personal views or to make un-evidenced claims,” she says. 
Presumably, therefore, a correctly filled-in form will not be sufficient evidence for the Spielman analysis of performance? 
There was a big hint from her for those of us in FE: “The curriculum will be Ofsted’s first big thematic review.” 
Even more indications that curriculum design, structure and implementation will lead in the future agenda. 
Most important of all, however, was that glimmer of common sense underlying her view that the importance of literacy and numeracy is crucial: “…a well-intentioned policy … that is causing significant problems.”
These two examples provide much evidence of the change processes that are either already influencing FE or are about to do so. 
However the FE sector needs to stand proud as we enter this new change area. At the end of the day the customers will want a quality product and will be prepared to pay a fair price if they can be assured of the myriad of the indices of success being achieved. 
It is sad, nevertheless, that in the interim fingers will be burnt as mistakes are made and some of the new kids on the block – ironically apprentices themselves in this area of work, particularly where they have never delivered such training – may get it wrong.
Then, I suppose, just as we are doing for schools and academies in regard to maths and English, the colleges will be asked to pick up the pieces. Unfortunately by then, as we see every day, the amount of recovery is significant. And, moreover, how many lives and careers will have been damaged? It’s something to prepare for.
Dr Paul Phillips is principal and chief executive of Weston College, Weston-super-Mare

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