HMRC criticised by Ofsted for uniform apprenticeship programme

The HMRC has been criticised by Ofsted for keeping hundreds of apprentices on programme for the same duration.

The tax office began delivering its own apprenticeships in October 2017 and currently trains 434 apprentices on level 4 standards in professional accounting/taxation technician.

Ofsted conducted an early monitoring visit of this provision last month and found HMRC to have made ‘reasonable progress’ areas across the three themes judged.

However, it was reported that “managers and assessors do not use the outcomes of the assessment of apprentices’ starting points well enough to address gaps in knowledge, skills and behaviours”.

Inspectors found that all apprentices have the same length of stay on the programme. As a result, “a few apprentices are not challenged to achieve their potential”.

An HMRC spokesperson said it “always takes on board comments made by Ofsted with respect to our educational programmes so that we can continue to offer teaching of the highest quality”.

“We are very pleased that Ofsted has found that we have made progress in all areas of our professional Tax Apprenticeship course,” they added.

In the report the employer provider was praised for responding “to the demand for taxation professionals within HMRC by providing apprenticeships that develop the relevant skills and knowledge of staff who are recruited to programmes both internally and externally”.

It was also noted that managers check apprentices’ prior knowledge effectively “to ensure that apprentices are able to complete and benefit from a level 4 apprenticeship”.

The monitoring visit found leaders made sufficient progress in ensuring that the provider is meeting all the requirements of successful apprenticeship provision.

The report said apprentices “benefit from carefully planned off-the-job training that enables them to apply and practise their newly acquired skills in the workplace” and “they accurately identify weaknesses and take prompt actions to make improvements that benefit apprentices.”

Ofsted also found that English and math skills were developed by apprentices who consequently “produce accurate reports and carry out complex tax calculations confidently”.

Inspectors concluded they also know how to check tax returns, how to undertake investigations and how to ask the most effective questions when interviewing a client.

The report said a wide range of teaching strategies are used and the curriculum enables apprentices to build on their previous experience.

Additionally, apprentices have frequent meetings with their assessors to review their progress and help them to catch up if they fall behind. “As a result, most apprentices are on target to complete their programmes within the planned timescale.”

Safeguarding mechanisms are in place and the inspectors found that when issues arise “managers take quick and clear actions to keep apprentices safe”.

But the report also stated designated safeguarding officers are not consistently communicating local risks in different parts of the country to apprentices.

Despite this, “apprentices feel safe and know how to report issues should they arise.”