Being judged ‘overall outstanding’ and being credited with a ‘very clear strategic vision’ by Ofsted is a fantastic experience for the team at Ixion and this is as a result of our staff’s incredibly hard work and commitment over a long period of time. There are still lessons to be learnt from the inspection that will benefit us as an organisation and for others seeking a Grade 1 as a way of growing business in a market where the apprenticeship levy has increased competition.
Firstly Ofsted’s collaborative approach to inspection is not a piece of PR; it is the reality. We found the inspection team to be highly skilled in looking at teaching, learning and assessment. The inspectors were very supportive in telling us why they believed that there were areas where we could improve.
Ixion has an in-year 91% success completion rate and 70% timely success rate for apprenticeships, but Ofsted felt that employers needed to be better informed to ensure that the entitlement to on and off-the-job training was completed in contracted hours. For providers like us who deliver in health and social care with its shift work practices, it’s a challenge but we’ve worked with our employers to agree what would work best for them, e.g. introducing virtual learning to support the entitlement.
We’re acutely aware of the quality arguments surrounding the 20% off-the-job training rule and it was the case that Ofsted didn’t come in and count up the hours. Nevertheless rules are rules and the inspectors felt that this aspect of delivery had sometimes not been recorded sufficiently. We’ve already updated and improved our One-File software to ensure that the right recording is taking place, backed up by checks from our administrative team.
Ixion was judged very highly for its teaching, learning and assessment and the inspection report highlighted our establishment of ‘highly innovative learning programmes’. This was the 21st inspection of our nominee’s career and in answer to the question of where we could further improve and invest a spare pound, the investment would be in the quality of the teaching, learning and assessment. Ixion has invested heavily in teachers, managers and staff dedicated to improving quality in those areas and to ensure vocational theoretical concepts are embedded in learning.
We’re passionately committed to see our learners across all of our skills programmes progress and were therefore delighted to see the inspection report note that most of the young people on our traineeship programme progress on to an apprenticeship. Incidentally, we see no reason why a learner on a high level apprenticeship or T level shouldn’t be encouraged to achieve level 3 in maths. Putting strong internal quality assurance in place and increasing the number of visits are two ways of ensuring that encouraging progression is an integral part of a provider’s culture.
Ofsted’s report observed that Ixion ‘demonstrates substantial corporate and social responsibility through its work’ and the company has ‘excellent and fruitful partnerships developed with a wide range of organisations’. It is a competitive market but we believe that a sign of effective leadership and management is a willingness to share information on best practice and challenges with other organisations in the sector. We are also conscious of the debate around how much quality can be delivered within the constraints of funding for frameworks (challenging) and some of the new standards (currently a lot less challenging but perhaps not for long!). Whatever the level of funding, my tip would be to work closely with employers to ensure that they are receiving maximum value for money and that together we are producing more confident learners. Every outstanding provider still requires improvement somewhere and we know what we need to address.
John Govett is Group Chief Executive at Ixion Holdings (Contracts) Ltd