Bitter war of words intensifies between AELP and IfA

The Institute for Apprenticeships is the “biggest threat” to quality in apprenticeships, the boss of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers has warned – in the latest war of words between the two organisations.

Mark Dawe’s (pictured above) comment came this morning during an education select committee hearing, in which he claimed the institute is refusing to listen either to Ofsted and Ofqual.

He described the way the IfA is currently running apprenticeships as a “car crash” and insisted that urgent change is needed.

His attack comes 11 days after the IfA’s boss Sir Gerry Berragan accused the AELP of being “inflammatory” for repeatedly raising concerns over apprenticeships which don’t have end-point assessment organisations in place.

The biggest threat to quality is the IfA at the moment

“The biggest threat to quality is the IfA at the moment,” Mr Dawe said this morning. “They are refusing to listen to Ofsted who say the 20-per-cent off-the-job rule is not a quality measure, [their view] is being ignored.

“They are refusing to use the expertise of Ofqual in terms of reviewing end-point assessment. They are not using Ofqual for external quality-assurance.”

He claimed the AELP is starting to hear what some of its EPA members are calling “horror stories” around the EQA processes they are being asked to do.

“Basically EQA is meant to review the quality of EPAs but it sounds like they [the IfA] are trying to redo the EPA themselves again given the volume of work they are putting in and this has been multiplied 40 times over in the EQA,” he explained.

“We now have reports of employers saying ‘what on earth is going on? We have one EQA organisation demanding one thing and another demanding another’.

“It is a mess to be honest, and the word ‘car crash’ is relevant.”

He told the committee that about five months ago his association presented a review of the 120 apprenticeship standards available, but that since then “there’s been silence from the IfA”.

He added that replacing frameworks has been “too slow” and there are employers who want to start delivering apprenticeships but are being prevented because of this.

“The faster better approach is very welcomed but we’re not seeing it,” Mr Dawe said.

At FE Week’s Annual Apprenticeships Conference last month, IfA boss Sir Gerry said that 99.1 per cent of apprentices due to undertake EPA in the next 12 months were on standards with at least one organisation in place to deliver the final exams – meaning 0.9 per cent of apprentices were not.

At an event in London to mark the first anniversary of the apprenticeship levy on April 6, Paul Warner, AELP’s director of research and development, asked why apprentices had been allowed to start on standards with no EPA organisations in place.

In response, Sir Gerry was reported to have said that neither the apprentices nor their employers considered it a problem, and that AELP was “being inflammatory in consistently raising the issue”.

Speaking to FE Week after the event, Mr Warner said that – far from being inflammatory – the issue was “a point of considerable importance, not least to the apprentices concerned”.

Mr Dawe added: “The government and the agencies keep swerving the question on the true picture of EPA and external quality assurance arrangements being actually able to deliver and the great majority of EPA organisations are working blind. Never in a million years would the current position be accepted for A-levels and GCSEs.”

The IfA has been approached for comment.