Apprenticeship quality not improving, says Ofsted chief inspector

The quality of apprenticeships is “sticking” instead of moving forward, according to Ofsted’s chief inspector who today urged the sector to “improve”.

Amanda Spielman (pictured) delivered a keynote speech on day one of FE Week’s Annual Apprenticeship Conference and provided delegates with an update about what the education watchdog is finding during inspections.

She said last year Ofsted inspected the apprenticeship provision at just over 100 providers, of which nearly 60 per cent of those were ‘good’ or better.

More recent inspections “show that, for now, the sector is holding steady – despite so much new provision coming on stream”, Spielman explained.

“Since last September, of the 52 full inspections that reported on the quality of apprenticeships, nearly 60 per cent were found to be good or better.”

So, while the picture “isn’t getting worse, I think that you would all agree that there is still work to do”.

The challenge is to “move past this 60 percent”, she said.

Meanwhile, the findings from over 150 monitoring visits to new apprenticeship providers show that around 60 per cent were making ‘reasonable progress’ across all three lines of enquiry, while almost a quarter received at least one ‘insufficient progress’ judgement.

AAC host Kirsty Wark later quizzed the chief inspector on the 60 per cent figure for full inspections, saying “it seems to me that’s not particularly good” considering the other 40 per cent of providers will be offering bad quality apprenticeships.

“That is why I wanted to talk about it today, it’s a figure that seems to be sticking,” Spielman said in response.

“We see this across last year and this year, the monitoring visits, it is a higher figure than in other areas of education that we inspect and we’d really really like to see that improve.”

The chief inspector’s comments come after Ofsted’s deputy director for FE and skills said in May last year that the quality of apprenticeships was actually in decline, and the programmes were starting to resemble the doomed Train to Gain initiative from the mid 00s.