UTC facing apprenticeship recruitment freeze after Ofsted criticism

The first university technical college to receive an early monitoring visit for its apprenticeship provision has been heavily criticised by Ofsted.

London Design and Engineering University Technical College (LDE UTC) was found making ‘insufficient progress’ in two out of the three themes assessed and can now expect to be suspended from recruiting apprentices.

Inspectors found that apprentices, who have been on programme for up to two years, are “unsure of the structure of their programme”.

They are also “unclear about the progress they are making” and “how long they are due to be on the apprenticeship”.

In addition, inspectors found “assessors do not explain sufficiently clearly to apprentices how they should prepare for end-point assessments” or “visit apprentices in the workplace frequently enough”.

LDE UTC, based in the London Borough of Newham, delivers level 3 apprenticeships in a range of engineering, building services and civil engineering standards.

A total of 32 apprentices were on programme during the early monitoring visit, with most working for employers across Greater London.

It also offers full-time provision for learners aged 14 to 19 but this was inspected separately in October 2018 and rated as ‘requires improvement’ under Ofsted’s school inspection framework.

The UTC’s early monitoring report found that “assessors do not recruit all the apprentices to the most appropriate level of programme, relative to their prior knowledge, qualifications and career aspirations,” with a minority of apprentices indicating the training does not challenge them sufficiently.

The classroom and work-based components are not delivered “in a logical or sequential order.”

This resulted in apprentices struggling to link the theoretical aspects of the course with the practical skills they acquire in their workplaces.

Moreover, inspectors believe staff are “too relaxed” about submission deadlines and do not offer “suitably useful or timely feedback.”

A few apprentices have also been placed in desk and office based roles despite much of the apprenticeship requiring them to develop practical and field based skills.

But the teachers were commended for implementing “an innovative blend of classroom and online learning materials” which enables apprentices to work flexibly.

Ofsted also noted that a change in management has resulted in the identification of major challenges required to improve quality of the UTC’s apprenticeships, although it was deemed “too early to judge their effectiveness”.

The executive was praised for the development of strong links with employers.

The UTC received a ‘reasonable progress’ score in ensuring effective safeguarding arrangements are in place.

Inspectors stated leaders and managers have established “a sound set of policies and procedures associated with safeguarding and the welfare of learners” and noted a “suitably trained” safeguarding lead oversees effective implementation when issues arise. 

Any provider found making ‘insufficient progress’ in an early monitoring report is usually suspended from recruiting apprentices, until it improves to at least ‘requires improvement’ in a full Ofsted inspection.

LDE UTC was approached for comment.