An online training provider for the insurance sector has been criticised by Ofsted for focusing too much on industry qualifications and failing to offer the broader requirements of an apprenticeship.
Inspectors gave Apex Management Consultants two ‘insufficient progress’ and one ‘reasonable progress’ ratings in a report published today following an early monitoring visit – its first by the education watchdog – in February.
The organisation, which is based in Devon and Sussex but delivers apprenticeships nationally through online-only sessions, was told that leaders were not familiar enough with “how to design a high-quality curriculum that goes beyond the confines of the professional qualification”.
Learners study a qualification through the insurance industry professional body, the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) as part of their apprenticeships, but inspectors found that overall teaching largely focuses on that industry qualification rather than the wider skills and behaviours of the apprenticeship.
Inspectors also reported that the provider, which launched apprenticeships for employees in the insurance industry in 2020 and has 150 learners on its books on standards from levels 3 to 6, fails to engage with employers.
It found that employers were not always involved in agreeing a plan for learners at the start of their studies, did not always meet with provider staff and the apprentice to review progress or establish targets, or collaborate on aligning learning with their work in the workplace.
The report continued that “many employers” do not provide apprentices with their entitlement of time to study and noted that while employers were complimentary about Apex’s service, this was because “leaders do not expect employers to play a full role in supporting their apprentice”.
Several employers told inspectors they saw the apprenticeship as a cost-effective way of getting their staff qualified, the report added.
Elsewhere, apprentices’ prior knowledge and skills were not checked enough at the start of their studies, while too many learners had not completed work by their expected apprenticeship end date. It said that a “significant factor” in that had been the lack of time employers were willing to release apprentices for learning.
Some apprentices needing maths or English qualifications were not taught those subjects early enough to complete those, the report noted.
Inspectors said that leaders had however identified areas for improvement, in particular around developing expertise in apprenticeships and the need to secure external support to help that.
The report added that teaching staff were experienced and held professional qualifications, while safeguarding arrangements were judged to be ‘reasonable progress’.
Apex’s website said the family business had been delivering training for more than 20 years and had secured the first accredited provider status with the CII in England in 2008.
Government rules state that ‘insufficient progress’ findings in early monitoring visit reports will result in a freeze in new apprenticeship starts. The provider declined to comment on Ofsted’s judgement.