Specsavers has landed its first ‘outstanding’ judgment from Ofsted after its “exceptional” apprenticeship training standards caught the eye of inspectors.
The watchdog lauded the optician’s “high-quality training” and “culture of high aspirations” in an upgrade on the ‘good’ rating it achieved in 2018.
Inspectors were also impressed with Specsavers’ focus on its apprentices’ mental and emotional well-being through monthly one-to-one sessions.
John Perkins, chief executive of Specsavers, said the report was a “fantastic endorsement” of the work of its apprenticeship team, which aims to ensure “people joining Specsavers are given access to the best training and development from day one so they can realise their full potential”.
The employer provider has 534 apprentices on its books. Most of the apprentices study level two and level three optician-related programmes, while 31 apprentices are on a level two customer service course and 61 on a level three spectacle making course.
‘Culture of high aspirations’
Specsavers scooped ‘outstanding’ grades across the board.
Ofsted highlighted “exceptional apprenticeship training” at Specsavers, where learners also benefit from “excellent resources” to develop new and existing knowledge, skills and behaviours.
Inspectors pointed to a set of “ambitious and challenging curriculums that extend beyond the apprenticeship standards”, so that “almost all” apprentices complete additional learning in areas like contact lens care and audiology.
“As a result, apprentices, including those with support needs, make excellent progress in their work and careers,” the report continued. Both apprentices and leaders have a “culture of high aspirations” at the provider, Ofsted said.
‘Clear and precise feedback’
Inspectors also praised efforts at Specsavers to keep work coaches’ knowledge up to date. For example, they are allocated one day per month where they complete “back-to-the-floor” days in store. As a result, staff have the “most current knowledge and skills to train apprentices effectively”.
Apprentices working for Specsavers also get the opportunity to shadow optometrists themselves, and act on “clear and precise feedback” to improve their own standards.
Inspectors also complimented the coaches’ “swift and effective action” to help apprentices when they fall behind, and review their apprentices’ workloads “carefully”, in fortnightly meetings.
“As such, apprentices who remain on their apprenticeship make excellent progress and swiftly develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours that are essential for their current job roles,” they said.
Ofsted said leaders “rightly recognise” that too many apprentices have left their training programme early, and that they use their “effective data” to “thoroughly analyse the reasons behind this and have quickly put in place measures to ensure apprentices do not leave early”.
Dena Wyatt, head of apprenticeships at Specsavers, said apprentices are a “pipeline of brilliant talent and part of what makes us so successful.
“We are very proud to have achieved an outstanding grade, but it does not stop here. We still have so much in the pipeline to make our programmes even better.”