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.”