Stewart Segal

You never know building a system based on trust may just be the way forward. 

No one could have predicted during the first lockdown in March last year that 10 months later we would have the highest number of people in hospital with Covid ever and the Secretary of State for Health saying that this is the ‘worst moment of the pandemic’.Despite the terrible figures and the personal stories we all have of this terrible epidemic we can look forward to a time when the inoculation programme starts to have an impact on the levels of infections, illness and deaths.

Lockdown is already having a terrible impact on the futures and careers of so many people in the economy 

 

In terms of the skills sector the impact of this latest lockdown is already having a terrible impact on the futures and careers of so many people in the economy. In particular young people who are starting out in their careers often suffer set-backs that can have an impact for many years because we know getting started in a career can be challenging at the best of times.

The government has a key role in doing everything it can to support people through these difficult times. The focus for the department has clearly been on schools and that will probably continue but the government must support all young people including those who are not at school including the apprentices who only have one chance of completing their programmes. There are thousands of apprentices who have not been able to progress in their programmes for no fault of their own. Some have managed to complete their learning but have not been able to do their final assessments. Giving them the chance to complete their programmes however we can, has to be the right thing to do by the apprentices, their employers. It will also provide good value for money for the government and employers.

Training providers are doing whatever they can to keep their apprentices engaged in learning and to get them ready for assessments, but the government and its agencies like the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education have to be more radical in these next few months to give as many apprentices as possible the chance to progress in their careers. Many cannot take up their permanent roles, or get their salary increase unless they pass their final assessment. Government has to work with the sector, private training providers, colleges, awarding organisations and others to provide the flexibility to make this work. We have seen some minor flexibilities in EPAs but we should now trust trainer and assessor judgements in calculated grades in Functional Skills and EPAs.

We should now trust trainer and assessor judgements in calculated grades in Functional Skills and EPAs.

Many apprentices are now taking longer to complete their programmes so the government has to support this additional cost. When they do complete their training, apprentices are still having to achieve their functional skills and cannot take their exams because they cannot travel and are working from home. The government and Ofqual have to look at practical alternatives and the sequencing of when they can do the various elements of the final assessments during this very difficult period.

Government continues to look at policies in silos. Changing the assessments for GCSEs and A Levels was the right thing to do and trusting teacher assessments was a great principle. That should also apply to all programmes funded by government especially for young people. These are difficult times so need radical and responsive solutions over the next 3 months.

These are difficult times so need radical and responsive solutions over the next 3 months.

Hopefully, the introduction of the vaccine will start to bring the rate of infection and illness down but for the next 3 months at least we need the government to be more radical and work with the sector to find the solutions that will give all apprentices a fair chance to complete the programmes that will help them find their way through a very difficult economy. Most importantly the government and its agencies need to trust training providers and awarding organisations and see them as part of the solution. And you never know building a system based on trust may just be the way forward.

Stewart Segal

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