Apprenticeships, Ofsted

Another giant apprenticeship provider hit with Ofsted grade 3

Kaplan's level 7 apprenticeship delivery comes in for specific criticism

Kaplan's level 7 apprenticeship delivery comes in for specific criticism

10 Aug 2022, 16:29

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A major financial services apprenticeship provider has been hit with its second consecutive ‘requires improvement’ from Ofsted.

Kaplan Financial Limited, which delivers training to 11,500 apprentices employed by big-name employers such as Microsoft, Cisco and HSBC, was dealt its latest grade three in a report published yesterday.

Inspectors criticised ineffective coordination of on- and off-the-job training for most apprentices, a failure to take into account prior learning, a focus on the achievement of professional qualifications over training, and poor-quality assurance arrangements.

There was also specific criticism for Kaplan’s delivery of the popular and controversial level 7 accountancy and taxation professional apprenticeship, which was in scope for Ofsted scrutiny for the first time in this inspection even though it has been delivered by the financial services provider since 2017.

Kaplan is one of the largest apprenticeship providers in England, earning more than £90 million from levy-paying employers from 2018/19 to 2020/21.

This is the second time one of England’s biggest apprenticeship training providers has been given a grade three from Ofsted in the past two months following Lifetime Training.

A spokesperson for Kaplan said the provider was “obviously disappointed” with the result and promised it has “project teams working to address each and every area that needs to improve as a matter of priority”.

Kaplan’s apprentices study apprenticeship standards in the professional and business services or the financial services sector from levels 2 to 7. Three quarters of all apprentices study the level 7 accountancy and taxation professional apprenticeship.

‘Requires improvement’ grades were handed to four of the five fields judged by Ofsted. But a ‘good’ judgement was given to “behaviours and attitudes”.

Inspectors said that senior leaders do not have an effective oversight of how well apprentices develop their knowledge, skills and behaviours as a result of their apprenticeship.

The quality assurance arrangements also do not “sufficiently focus on evaluating the quality of education that apprentices receive”.

Ofsted said that half of the weaknesses identified at the previous ‘requires improvement’ inspection in 2018 remain and leaders have not been “swift enough to improve the quality of training that most apprentices receive”.

Leaders were however praised for developing apprenticeship programmes that meet the needs of employers in the financial services and business sector. They have “nurtured effective links with a range of high-profile employers to provide apprenticeship training across the country”.

Ofsted also shone a light on the delivery of Kaplan’s level 3 data technician and level 4 business analyst apprenticeships, after finding that apprentices “receive useful support when they fall behind, make good progress, and most pass exams on their first attempt”.

Conversely, level 7 accounting apprentices do not receive “effective support when they fall behind or when they fail examinations”. These higher accounting apprentices also “do not receive useful guidance from staff to know what they need to do to improve” and “do not make the expected progress or complete their apprenticeship”.

Ofsted also criticised Kaplan’s managers and talent coaches as they “do not effectively coordinate on- and off-the-job training for most apprentices”.

Inspectors found that too many employers do not “fully understand the requirements of an apprenticeship and focus too much on the achievement of the professional qualifications”.

The report continued: “They [employers] do not ensure that apprentices have the opportunity in the workplace to practise the skills they learn during their training. As a result, a few apprentices on accountancy apprenticeships do not recall previous learning.”

A Kaplan spokesperson said: “While we put our learners at the centre of everything we do, we accept the findings of our Ofsted inspection team. ‘Behaviour and attitudes’ was judged good but there are a number of areas in which our provision was found to be inconsistent and ineffective.

“We already have project teams working to address each and every area that needs to improve as a matter of priority.”

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  1. Paul Timmins

    Employers see a lot of higher level apprentice schemes as a way of getting training paid for from their training levy.
    In the past the employer would pay for advanced training. These days they have to pay into the training levy so look at how they can use this money, which they have already spent, to train their staff. Staff being trained concentrate on the professional qualifications (which makes them more employable/better paid) and as the Qualification is not tied to the apprenticeship they often don’t care about the other skills on the program. We see this a lot in HNC/D Engineering programs where learners concentrate on the qualification but put little effort into the wider program, unless the employer is really engaged then it’s also not high up on their priorities. We have many learners change jobs/roles on completion of the qualification and the apprentiship gets left behind.
    The whole high level apprenticship scheme is ripe for exploitation and is an attempt to have a one size fits all model which doesn’t work. Universities and training providers love it as they can get money, employers use it to recoup levy costs, learners don’t care so long as they get the proffesional qualifications.

  2. Pivot tabler

    “Most apprentices follow the same curriculum regardless of
    their prior knowledge and experience. As a result, apprentices with prior knowledge
    or experience do not progress through their apprenticeship as quickly as they could. ”

    Look at the relationship between annual starts and annual achievers since 17/18 (for the level 7 tax professional standard) and there must be a significant portion achieving before the suggested 36 month duration…

    On the LEVEL 7 Accountancy or Taxation Professional, amongst all providers there are around 7000 starts per year. Around 300 of these are by under 19s. Presumably straight out of A’ levels and onto a Level 7. (Plus a few had already been employed for more than 6 months before starting…)

    On ALL other level 7s, there were over 12000 starts in 20/21 (growing fast on previous years), yet only 30 were under 19.

    I’d love to know why Accountancy and Tax is so much more appealing and accessible to young people than the other 31 standards with starts at Level 7.