Before I talk about the future, I'll talk about where we are now.
Ofsted isn't everything, however we all understand it so let me use it as a benchmark.
We've got about 58/59 percent of our apprenticeship provision I think it is, as good or better at the moment.
Apprenticeship Quality has Stagnated
Let's clap that 58/59 percent, but actually recognize that's a really big gap that aren't at that point yet.
Number One - That's about inspections in a year, so it's risk based.
Number Two - That's not apprenticeship providers, that's apprenticeship provision. So that's actually also the sub grades that sit in providers that do more than apprenticeships.
Number Three - What I always do is to say, "Well let's compare that in how we might look at other parts of the system that are also inspected by Ofsted, and they are more or less at 80 percent".
So actually, that gap is really quite significant.
What I always say to that providers that we support is, "Let's keep finding that one percent extra".
How do we make sure that actually the direction of travel we take is aiming towards making sure that, on as level playing field as it ever will, that we're starting to see that 58 percent creep up?
From a trend point view it hasn't really got any better, regardless of the reforms, we've got three or four years of it hovering somewhere around the same mark.
There's nothing we can do about what's gone but we can do something about what's going forward.
Apprenticeship Quality in the Future
I think we've got some risks that we need to take into account, and we need to think about how we lean into those risks in a way that is appropriate to develop them.
Employers as champions of equality
Number One - The employer, as I often say, is a kind of champion and thief of apprenticeship quality. They're with the Apprentice 80 percent of the time, let's not forget that.
They play a crucially important role, and as any provider will tell you, and any trainer or assessor will tell you, if you're having to drag the employer or the line manager actually kicking and screaming through an apprenticeship, then you've got yourself a quality issue. Where actually what we need is the employer to be as engaged in that as they ought to be.
What I think the reforms has done is it's kick started that question right at the beginning. So, we're seeing more caution over the type of employer that providers are willing to work with, the level of briefing that they might do to support them.
So that's number one for me. Let's always think about how we make sure that the employer is doing the bit that they need to do if we want to have a quality apprenticeship, because it's the provider that gets stung actually ultimately isn't it?
Expertise in curriculum design
Number Two - I think we've got a risk around curriculum.
Because of the history of the way apprenticeships have come about, this idea of designing a curriculum is common to some, but actually for a lot of apprenticeship providers we've been so driven by quite a rigid framework, the notion of design in a curriculum hasn't really come through. So, we've got a new framework coming in that's going to push that question.
We have to really think through how we are doing what we do for the right reasons, and that actually we're going through that process of thinking about the sequencing of the curriculum, what it is that we're trying to achieve, in order to make sure that we keep getting those one percents.
Don't start teaching to the test
Number Three - I think my third risk would be the thing that we speak most about at the moment: End-point Assessment.
I think there's lots of good things about EPA coming in, I’m a real supporter of it. The risk is that we start teaching to the test.
So, we need to learn those lessons, think backwards, look at what's happening in schools, look at where Ofsted are going, and actually say let's make sure that that's not space that we end up in.
We are the only people that can make sure that we're responding to that correctly.
They have been my three:
Number One, Employers: Make sure they are a champion of equality.
Number Two would be around: Curriculum design, and really thinking that through, making sure we've got the right expertise.
Number Three would be around: Use EPA for what it's good for, but let's make sure the whole curriculum doesn't get constricted to the point that that's all we're about.
Then we'll keep chipping away those 1 percent it's until we're somewhere near that 80 percent like all other bits of the education system are.
Louise Doyle, Director, Mesma