Auditing apprentice pay will not be part of routine inspections, Ofsted promises

Compliance will only be looked at in 'limited circumstances'

Compliance will only be looked at in 'limited circumstances'

Ofsted has reassured training providers that auditing apprentice pay will not become a “routine” part of inspections.   

The watchdog’s deputy director for FE and skills, Paul Joyce, said compliance with employment contracts will only be looked at by inspectors in “limited circumstances”, such as when concerns are raised by apprentices themselves.   

His intervention comes after FE Week revealed how a charity had its new provider monitoring visit report downgraded from ‘reasonable’ to ‘insufficient’ progress following a tip-off about illegal apprentice wages and “unsuitable” employment.   

The report, published last month for the Uganda Community Relief Association, is understood to be the first time the inspectorate has policed apprentice pay. The case raised questions about which government arm is responsible for audits – a job that usually lies with the Education and Skills Funding Agency.   

Ofsted regularly reminds the sector that the focus of inspections is on the “quality of education”.   

Our job is to inspect. It’s to focus on quality. We don’t audit.

Joyce explained that in order to evaluate the quality of education, inspectors use a “wide and diverse” range of evidence to inform their judgments, which is where apprentice pay can be looked at.   

He told FE Week: “So inspectors will not routinely examine contracts of employment or pay rates, but these may on occasion be reviewed if, for example, inspectors are concerned about the amount of on- or off-the-job training that apprentices are receiving.   

“[Apprentice pay may also be examined] if apprentices raise specific concerns about employment terms and conditions with inspectors that have an impact on their training, or the quality of it, or if inspectors have concerns that leaders and managers at a provider are not meeting the requirements of an apprenticeship training programme.   

“It can become a source of evidence to help inspectors to triangulate to make sure things are as they should be.”   

Joyce said training providers should not be concerned that inspectors will audit pay in normal inspections, especially if apprentices have “appropriate contracts of employment and are paid appropriately”.   

He added: “We won’t routinely do that. If lines of inquiry take us down that route we may in limited circumstances. But our job is to inspect. It’s to focus on quality. We don’t audit, we don’t check compliance.   

“But there may be some circumstances in a limited number of inspections where either apprentices themselves raise concerns, or where inspectors are concerned that apprentices aren’t being recruited in line with the requirements of an apprenticeship training programme, or where there’s insufficient time allocated for their on- or off-the-job training.” 

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