Apprentice feedback will soon be used to trigger intervention in training providers, the Education and Skills Funding Agency has confirmed.
Views from apprentices about the quality of their training experience are set to be gathered through a new Tripadvisor-style review tool that was launched last week.
The results will generate an overall star rating on the government’s Find Apprenticeship Training website and be used as a quality indicator under the ESFA’s new accountability framework that came into effect in April.
Those with poor scores will be placed in a “needs improvement” category and become subject to “enhanced monitoring”, which could include management conversations with government officials, the development of “improvement plans” and potential referrals to Ofsted.
The ESFA told FE Week that a quality threshold for apprentice feedback will be announced in due course, once the data has “sufficiently matured”.
Employer feedback, gathered via a similar tool launched in 2018, currently triggers intervention if a provider’s average feedback is “less than 2.5” stars out of four.
News that apprentice feedback will be used as an accountability measure has been welcomed by the National Society of Apprentices, which bemoaned the government’s “inherently unbalanced” apprenticeship system that “values the views of employers over the views of apprentices”.
But Ian Pryce, chief executive of Bedford College, questioned the decision. He said he is not a fan of using feedback as a performance measure as it “distorts how we approach employers and apprentices”.
“It becomes about the result, not the insight,” he told FE Week. “Also, it implies a simplistic view of learning as the sole responsibility of the provider, when apprentices and employers also have responsibilities. Education is not an Amazon purchase.”
The ESFA’s digital service originally planned to launch the apprentice feedback tool in September 2018, with then-skills minister Anne Milton speaking in strong favour of its value over Ofsted inspections. However, it suffered a number of setbacks.
In an update to the sector last week, the agency said apprentices can now give anonymous feedback from their ‘My Apprenticeship’ account. The results will appear on each training provider’s Find Apprenticeship Training webpage for employers and prospective learners to view once ten responses have been submitted.
The apprentice will be asked to agree or disagree with 12 questions in the feedback survey before being asked to rate their training with one of four stars: very poor (1), poor (2), good (3) or excellent (4). An average of all the results is then calculated to generate a provider’s overall rating.
The same process is used for employer feedback.
However, the government does not publish or hold a central list of all training provider ratings for employers and apprentices to make comparisons.
The ESFA told FE Week: “The apprenticeship service infrastructure is currently configured to process and present data at a summarised provider view in Find Apprenticeship Training. We do not therefore hold the data in a format that would allow comparison between providers outside of the service.”
Jane Hickie, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said there is a place for feedback from learners and their employers when assessing the quality of apprenticeship training and agreed with the ESFA that this “should be measured as part of a framework that assesses a wide range of quality indicators”.
However, she added, “As apprenticeship feedback is new, it is important that ESFA takes time to ensure any threshold linked to intervention is realistic and proportionate.”
Ofsted also confirmed to FE Week that it will use apprentice and employer feedback as one data tool to inform inspections.