DfE ‘will not be satisfied’ with upcoming apprenticeship achievement rates, top civil servant warns

Peter Mucklow has hinted there will be a big drop in national achievement rates this year

Peter Mucklow has hinted there will be a big drop in national achievement rates this year

21 Mar 2022, 14:06

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The government’s top apprenticeships civil servant has hinted there will be a big drop in national achievement rates this year.

Peter Mucklow told FE Week’s Annual Apprenticeship Conference today that both the revised apprenticeship achievement rates for 2019/20 and the new rates for 2020/21 will be published imminently.

But he warned his department “will not be satisfied with those levels” when they are released.

Without revealing what the rates are expected to look like, Mucklow, the Department for Education’s director of apprenticeships, said: “We need to get those achievement rates up.

“Now I know there are good outcomes for people who leave apprenticeships without achieving their qualification. Nonetheless, achievement rates are already around the lower levels and that is something we cannot be satisfied with.”

Low achievement rates will have been impacted by Covid-19 but are also largely to blame for retention rates.

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.

But the retention rate for standards in 2018/19 was 48.3 per cent and in 2019/20 was 60.2 per cent. Former skills minister Gillian Keegan ordered an investigation into the “astonishingly” high drop-out rate last year.

The DfE was forced to remove last year’s published achievement rates in February due to an “error”.

Mucklow revealed today that error came about because he took his “best people” off the job owing to Covid.

‘We’re very satisfied this will not happen again’

“During the Covid period in terms of the quality assessment of data, there was an error. The reason for that error was because we put some of our best people who do the quality assessment and assurance year on year on other work in the department,” he said.

“We thought that was the right thing but we’ve since discovered that in the 2019/20 published data was incorrect. There was an error that was made. Obviously, that’s quite a serious thing. So as soon as we found that out we put that into the public domain.”

Asked whether he was confident this error would never happen again, Mucklow said “yes”.

We’re very satisfied this will not happen again because we are putting the strongest possible quality assurance team to ensure that it doesn’t.”

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  1. Rather than being hit over the head with yet another hammer blow for Achievement rates I would like to hear Mr Mucklows strategies for improving achievement rates from a grass roots level. Be wonderful if he could visit us and and come up with a solution to stop young people leaving their apprenticeships for many reasons: to work less hours in better paid jobs; their micro business employers can no longer afford to employ them; they can’t see a future for themselves within the industry….. I could go on…..Don’t just tell us what’s not good enough, help us to improve by listening to employers and Providers.

  2. Dan Jones

    “We need to get those achievement rates up” – who is “we” – love to see a Civil Servant know one end of a Standard from another, or one employer with issues from another, or one young person struggling to complete from another or one older apprentice juggling home, work and cost of living from another. How about stop tinkering, how about a period of stability, how about thinking after three RoATPs ‘quality’ hasn’t been ‘solved’ and why taking a blanket approach to the sector and not focusing upon the weak links or the underlying causes behind non-achievement hasn’t been helpful. You can imagine it now – yes Minister the apprenticeship success rates that used to be high are now low and it all those pesky providers faults, no Minister not the reforms, or our implementation of them or rules so weighty that they have their own gravitational pull….

  3. Emma Writtle

    It speaks volumes about life at the ESFA that Peter Mucklow is prepared to publicly discriminate between his “best people” and his, presumably, second-raters. A private sector CEO doing the same in public would probably earn some opprobrium. This, of course, from someone who has enjoyed a handsome living from the tax-payer, in senior roles that purport to manage, oh irony, investments in the development of people’s abilities.