The Young Apprenticeships Programme, launched by the Department for Education and Skills in September 2004, has improved considerably according to a report released by Ofsted, Britain’s official body that inspects schools. However inspectors also recommended that more must be done to tackle gender stereotyping on some vocational courses.
After visiting 18 different vocational areas or partnerships in the academic year 2004/05, 24 in 2005/06 and 14 in 2006/07, the inspectors conclude that schools have succeeded in offering a much more varied, flexible curriculum to the 14 to 16 age range, thus making work-related learning an indispensable part of their statutory curriculum.
The report says that the programme, which also promises 50 days work experience to each student, continues to offer a successful alternative to traditional routes through Key Stage 4 for average students. The number of partnerships where students achieve well has increased significantly since 2004/05. Prospective future employers are highly impressed about how focussed, confident, independent, well-behaved and enthusiastic today’s students are. Quality of information imparted to students and their guardians regarding course requirements and prospects has also improved in the long run.
In spite of the programme’s success, the inspectors believe that one of its greatest flaws is gender-stereotyping in some vocational fields which must be tackled with more rigour and sincerity. In addition to that, Key Stage 3 data should be used more efficiently to provide challenging targets and activities which are more compatible to students” abilities using individual learning plans more effectively. Partnership should also make sure of more frequent and planned opportunities for students to extend and consolidate their learning between sessions. It must co-ordinate and plan for the development of students” key skills
Although gender-stereotyping is persistent throughout the programme, there have been some exceptions, according to the report. In the construction vocational area, which has been a traditionally male preserve, one partnership recruited and retained two girls out of a total of 15 students who started the course.
The report also shows that the Young Apprenticeships Programme has achieved pretty decent results in all 14 partnerships inspected in 2006/07. This is in line with achievement in partnerships inspected in 2005/06 and an improvement since 2004/05. In all but two partnerships in 2006/07, there has been no underachievement and students were on track to achieve level 2 qualifications.
The provision of opportunities for independent learning and team-working has been the most improved aspect of teaching and learning over the three years of the programme, the report claims. Besides, areas like curriculum programmes, links with and impression of employers, advice and guidance, recruitment, selection procedures and training of staff, leadership and management, communication have seen outstanding improvement in the year 2006/2007.