Apprenticeship achievement rates removed due to ‘error’

It took the DfE's statisticians almost a year to spot the issue

It took the DfE's statisticians almost a year to spot the issue

National apprenticeship achievement rates for 2019/20 have been taken down by the government after statisticians spotted that they are likely to be overstated due to an “error” – almost a year after publication.

The decision to remove the rates, first published in March 2021, was announced by the Department for Education’s chief statistician Neil McIvor this evening.

He said the error has “identified people who had withdrawn from their apprenticeship programme but who, at the time of publishing, were thought to have continued into the next year”.

McIvor also said the error is “likely to lead to a reduction to the overall 2019 to 2020 rate that was previously published”, but the size of the impact “can only be robustly quantified once the revised data is calculated”.

The rates have now been taken down “until new data is available”.

National achievement rate tables published last year showed that the overall rate for all apprenticeships fell slightly from 64.8 per cent in 2018/19 to 64.2 per cent in 2019/20.

Simon Ashworth, director of policy at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said it was “disappointing” that the error has only just been identified.

He added: “This is likely to have masked the actual impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on apprentice achievement. At the time, it seemed to have held up better than expected. The government must recognise the impact that the pandemic continues to have on apprenticeship success rates. They need to take a measured and pragmatic approach to any subsequent intervention.”

McIvor said his teams now need to complete the “full production cycle for 2020 to 2021 in order to provide new data for 2020 to 2021 and revisions to any preceding years which will include full quality assurance of the 2019 to 2020 data”.

He added: “This revised data for 2019 to 2020 will form part of the national high-level three-year time series, containing data for 2018/2019 to 2020/2021, which is scheduled for publication in March 2022. Once that data has been calculated and quality assured, national level data for 2019 to 2020 will be available again.”

The 2019/20 achievement rates did not contain any provider-level data due to the pandemic.

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  1. Achievement rate methodology is complex. Those with a forensic understanding of it will have noticed that the cessation of publishing provider level data for 19/20 created an opportunity for ‘tidying’ up continuers long past their planned end date and the effect on provider achievement rates would not be visible…

    Providers will still be presenting internal data to Ofsted and big drops will look a lot like the impact of Covid, inevitably followed by a healthy recovery in rates.

    Presumably the ESFA are alert to that.