The majority of apprentices on one of the country’s largest discount retailer’s apprenticeship scheme have abandoned their training due to “ineffective initial advice and guidance”, Ofsted inspectors have said.
In an Ofsted report published today, inspectors graded B&M Retail’s apprenticeship programme as ‘inadequate’ for not planning a “sufficiently ambitious” programme, leaving apprentices to either stop their training or leave employment of B&M entirely.
During its late May inspection, the watchdog recorded just 17 apprentices aged over 19 at B&M retail sites across the country – a huge cut from the 167 apprentices recorded at its monitoring visit in February 2022. Apprentices were studying the level 5 operations or departmental manager apprenticeship standard, the level 3 team leader or supervisor standard or the level 2 customer service practitioner standard.
The report rated the employer provider ‘inadequate’ in three areas and ‘requires improvement’ in behaviour and attitudes and personal development.
“Almost all apprentices that started their apprenticeship have left,” the report said, adding that apprentices were “ill-advised and unsupported.”
Those who remained on the programme enjoy their work “despite their disrupted learning and falling behind with their work,” inspectors found.
Inspectors slammed leaders’ failures to identify and improve the quality of education and training. Leaders had acknowledged that apprentices were leaving their training, because of “ineffective initial advice and guidance and apprentices leaving the organisation to seek alternative employment after the pandemic.”
“The quality of training has declined,” the report said. It added that while the employer provider conducted learner surveys, it did not analyse or act upon the findings to improve provision.
Apprentices were ‘ill-advised and unsupported’
During the monitoring visit in February 2022, the retailer had 167 apprentices in learning and were found to be making reasonable progress.
Inspectors said at the time that leaders have a “clear strategy” to implement an ambitious curriculum, and apprentices were motivated to achieve the highest grades they could.
“For the very few apprentices who have successfully completed their final assessments, most have progressed within the organisation with promotion,” it added.
But following its monitoring visit in February 2022, leaders reviewed the apprenticeship programme and took the strategic decision not to recruit apprentices onto the current programme, according to the full inspection report today.
Inspectors praised field trainers’ use of knowledge and experience of the retail sector into the curriculum, but added that they do not use the information gathered on apprentices’ starting points to plan for learning substantial new knowledge and skills. This led to apprentices’ progress towards achieving their qualifications becoming too slow.
B&M Retail was approached for comment.