From education to employment

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service praised in first Ofsted inspection

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) has been praised by Ofsted in the first full inspection of its firefighter apprenticeship programme.

The Service has been rated ‘Outstanding’ for its approaches to personal development and behaviour and attitudes. The quality of education; leadership and management; and apprenticeships have each been rated as ‘Good’, meaning the Service has been rated as ‘Good’ in overall effectiveness as an Apprenticeship Employer-Provider.

The result follows Greater Manchester’s high ranking in the latest national Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers in June. Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), including GMFRS, has been ranked 37 this year – the highest placing of all regional public sector organisations and an improvement of 21 places from last year.

Ofsted inspectors recognised that the apprentices are extremely proud to be part of the Service and are highly motivated and want to succeed.

GMFRS Chief Fire Officer, Dave Russel said:

“I’m extremely proud of the outcome of our first Ofsted inspection, which recognises the quality of our apprenticeship provision and our commitment to continuously improve the programme so it is the best it can be.

“As the report highlights, GMFRS goes above and beyond in the delivery of its apprenticeship curriculum to ensure that all our new firefighters are equipped with the knowledge and the skills they need to meet the challenging demands and unique built environment of the city-region.

“We are delivering an ambitious programme, with a commitment in our Fire Plan to recruit 350 apprentice firefighters between 2021 and 2025. So to get this endorsement from Ofsted is testament to what we are striving to achieve here in Greater Manchester.

“Our people are our best asset as we continue on our journey to be a modern, flexible and resilient fire and rescue service, and supporting and developing our apprentices is key to that, so I’m pleased that has been recognised by inspectors.”

Inspectors also highlighted that:

  • Apprentices consistently demonstrate exceptional workplace behaviours and swiftly develop their knowledge skills and behaviours to become operational firefighters.
  • Apprentices are well supported to develop the skills and behaviours they need to help protect the communities they serve, including taking part in open days and school visits to speak to the public about fire and water safety.
  • Leaders plan an ambitious curriculum for apprentices that goes beyond the requirements of the apprenticeship programme to meet the specialist needs of Greater Manchester. This ensures firefighters develop an enhanced set of specialist skills.
  • Apprentices with additional learning needs are well supported and achieve as well as other apprentices.

The rating follows a four-day inspection of GMFRS’s Level 3 Operational Firefighter Standard apprenticeship programme in July 2022.

The Level 3 Operational Firefighter Apprenticeship allows learners to gain new knowledge and skills as they work and train towards being a competent firefighter.

The apprentices will typically spend 24 to 30 months working towards this standard, including completing a 16-week initial training programme before being posted out to one of the 41 fire stations across Greater Manchester where they will complete their training ‘on the job’.

The programme is funded through the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s (ESFA) Apprenticeship Levy – meaning there is no cost to the apprentice for the training or exams.

Since 2018, a total of 206 apprentice firefighters have completed the full two-year apprenticeship. A further 195 are currently on the programme, at varying stages of their training and development.

Tana Vengrinova recently completed the first part of her apprenticeship:

“I’m originally from Slovakia and moved to England in 2006. It has been a challenging 16 weeks both mentally and physically, but also very rewarding at the same time. Becoming a part of GMFRS gives you a sense of belonging and provides individuals with an opportunity to help and influence others. It has been a really rewarding experience.”

As set out in its Fire Plan 2021-25, GMFRS is committed to developing a culture of excellence, equality and inclusivity, which includes attracting and retaining a workforce that represents the diversity of Greater Manchester. The Service’s apprenticeships are open to anyone who wants to start, advance or change their career, and almost 40% of recently recruited firefighters are from an underrepresented group.

Related Articles