Sir Gerry Berragan sets out his institute’s programme for the new financial year
The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education is two years old next month and has developed considerably in that time. We have reduced the time it takes to approve new apprenticeship standards, effectively doubling our approval rate, and learner and employer engagement with the reform programme has increased. But we will not rest on our laurels and this year are looking at how we continue to improve, with a key focus on quality.
Our aim is for apprenticeships to enjoy a respected and prestigious status as an attractive route to skilled employment and further development. To do this they must be universally associated with the highest standards.
To that end, this week we have published the Quality Strategy, developed with our partners in the Quality Alliance. This sets out best practice expectations before, during and after apprenticeships.
The institute chairs the alliance, whose members include the Department for Education, Ofsted, Ofqual, the Quality Assurance Agency and the Office for Students. The Association of Employment and Learning Providers, the Association of Colleges, the Federation of Awarding Bodies and Universities UK attend meetings as observers.
The strategy is a commitment to ensuring that the training apprentices receive, on and off the job, is of the highest quality, leading to an end-point assessment that demonstrates that they are occupationally competent.
As part of this, we are developing a revised framework for external quality assurance and working with the Education and Skills Funding Agency to strengthen the criteria applied to the register of end-point assessment organisations.
The institute is always happy for feedback and to consider how we can evolve and improve.
We have been criticised for being too secretive. Any new organisation tasked with such important responsibilities for ensuring the success of the technical education reform programme inevitably would be initially cautious in how it communicated with employers, the FE sector and wider world.
But our established position in the apprenticeships and T-levels arena is enabling us to engage more freely with the press and public.
Wherever possible we are happy to share information with our stakeholders and the public so they can understand the work we do – although there will always be cases where commercially sensitive information cannot be shared.
But to improve transparency we are reviewing our processes, including how funding bands are calculated and what supporting information can be shared. We hope to make more information public in time.
We also launched our Faster and Better programme with the aim of working more closely with employers to refine our processes so that standards could be identified, developed and approved more quickly and effectively.
We published our 400th standard last month, two months ahead of schedule, and have now moved on to more than 410.
Now we are looking to a second wave of improvements and to having 500 approved standards before the end of this next financial year.
We are also proud to have played a key role in creating a rich training landscape that provides a range of opportunities at all levels. We don’t see a “middle-class grab”, but rather a broad system that supports learners from a diversity of backgrounds and education to learn new skills in a wider range of apprenticeships.
Most recent provisional figures confirmed that employers and apprentices are throwing their support behind the new apprenticeships, with starts on standards now topping 300,000.
Our preparations for T-levels are also going to plan and, as things stand, the first wave will be available for teaching from September next year. And this week we have released the Invitation to tender for the next seven pathways in wave two of T-levels, two weeks ahead of the original release date.
This approach allowed the government and the institute to work with providers, employers, awarding organisations and other partners to design the new system for successful further rollout.
It all points towards exciting times ahead for technical education and an established and successful institute.