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Key messages from the AAC

Guest blog by Dr Gareth Thomas, Skills and Employment Support Limited

I’ve been working alongside NCFE for several months now, and it’s great to see the business getting even more involved in shaping the apprenticeships and skills landscape.

At the end of March I spent two days at the FE Week Annual Apprenticeship Conference 2019, and thought it would be useful in this first blog to bring you a summary of what I brought away from the event by way of key messages. These are not in any order of importance, and have not been dressed up in fancy language. For those of you that know me or have come across me previously, you will already be aware that I tend not to use flowery or esoteric language. I tell it like it is, so here goes…

  1. Initial Assessment was a recurring theme…
  • Initial assessment of all learners including Apprentices must be robust. Questions were raised as to whether it whether providers would be truly impartial in undertaking initial assessments, and one proposal put forward was for third parties to undertake this work. In my eyes, if the sector decides it does need to look to third parties to undertake this work, then who would be better placed than End-Point Assessment Organisations such as NCFE? However, we are still some way off this yet;
  • The results from the initial assessment MUST be used to inform programme design, and personalisation of learning if you want to be judged as being Good or Outstanding. Currently only ~60% of providers are graded as Good or Outstanding, meaning a significant number are not doing this well enough;
  • The results of initial assessments must be used to set the duration and content of apprenticeships from a compliance point of view. Funding should not be claimed for learning that has been previously undertaken, and wherever possible the duration of the apprenticeship should be adjusted to recognise prior learning. Again, this raises questions of impartiality;
  • Employers should be fully engaged in the individual programme design every Apprenticeship Standard delivered. This means with individual Apprentices. Employers should not only be in attendance when conversations on programme design are taking place, they should be helping to shape the delivery plan for each Apprentice.
  1. On the topic of progress…

Are learners being fully supported to make progress towards the achievement of the qualification? This includes providing standardised and effective feedback with learning points, and putting actions in place to advance the learner at all stages. Are they really being supported to learn new skills that map towards the Apprenticeship Standard? We also heard many horror stories about trainers/assessors/development coaches who thought they has supported learners to Gateway, and only then asked to see the Apprenticeship Standard Assessment Plan. My view is that delivery staff should live and breathe this from the outset.

  1. Are Apprenticeship Training Providers tracking progress effectively? Do they know where your learners are, and is that as a result of a systematic approach to tracking progress? Could others play a bigger role in doing this?
  2. Assuming that Providers are tracking progress, are they identifying learners who have fallen behind (or are at risk of falling behind), and are they putting actions (not just plans, but tangible actions captured in plans) in place to ensure they catch up quickly?

The above may seem obvious, but my feeling is that there are a lot of organisations in the sector that are not doing some of these things well enough. In summary, it is about starting with the end in mind. NCFE not only offer end-point assessment, but also wider support to Apprenticeship Training Providers, helping them to be the best they can be. Get in touch to see how NCFE can help you drive your Apprenticeship business forward [Insert contact detail/link].

Dr Gareth Thomas

Managing Director, Skills and Employment Support Limited


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