It is easy to conclude that the DfE are not serious about apprenticeship quality

7 Jun 2019, 9:30

This week we report that the Department for Education will announce that the Office for Students, not Ofsted, will inspect the quality of all level 6 and 7 apprenticeships.

It comes after FE Week exposed the fact that thousands of apprentices were at providers where Ofsted had to exclude them from inspection because they were on standards at level 6 and 7 with no degree element, and therefore had no regulator responsible.

It was a situation that irked the chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, who recounted a story of joining an inspection where these learners were off-limits.

But despite Ofsted wanting to take responsibility for monitoring the quality of popular apprenticeships, such as the level 7 accountancy at providers like Kaplan Financial, the DfE has seen fit to call on the Office for Students – even if the provider offering them is not on its HE register.

Given the timing, in that the announcement has not yet been made, this appears to be the first major rejection of a recommendation within the Augar Review.

The high-profile report published last week recommended that “Ofsted become the lead responsible body for the inspection of the quality of apprenticeships at all levels”.

And for good reason, describing the Ofsted and the OfS sharing of responsibility as “wasteful”, that it risks providers being overlooked and fails to ensure consistency.

They rightly go on to say that “a sole inspection body is vital when new and untested providers are entering the market and offering provision at a variety of levels”.

Without wanting to sound unkind, the OfS seem completely out of their depth in the non-degree market, which might explain why they have so far been reluctant to actively take up their apprenticeship responsibilities.

And the only argument I have heard so far against Ofsted taking the responsibility is that “this may not be welcome by some higher education institutions”.

If the government is serious about a high-quality apprenticeship system then it is blindingly obvious they should not burden the OfS with responsibility for something they are totally ill-equipped to manage.

Rejection of this Augar Report recommendation makes a mockery of common sense.

Let’s not make this a case study of poor policymaking, worthy of featuring in the level 4 policy officer apprenticeship standard.

The sector and apprentices deserve better than policies that simply seek to save the blushes of some university vice chancellors.

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