National apprenticeship achievement rate rises to 54%

Slight increase leaves sector way off government target

Slight increase leaves sector way off government target

21 Mar 2024, 9:51

The proportion of apprentices who successfully completed their training and assessment grew marginally to 54.3 per cent last year, new figures reveal.

Overall apprenticeship achievement rates on the new-style standards rose by 2.9 percentage points in 2022/23, up from 51.4 per cent the year before.

It leaves the sector 13 percentage points off of the government’s 67 per cent achievement rate target that it hopes to achieve by then end of 2024/25.

If overall achievement rates continue to rise by 2.9 percentage points a year, the target would not be reached until 2027/28.

The apprenticeship dropout rate has also slightly improved but still remains worryingly high.

In 2021/22 the overall retention rate on standards sat at 52.8 per cent, which grew by 3.1 percentage points to 55.9 per cent in 2022/23. It means that just less than half, 44 per cent, of all apprentices on standards dropped out before completing their end-point assessment last year.

Skills minister Robert Halfon said he was “pleased things are moving in the right direction” following today’s figures, but warned that the Department for Education will take tough action against individual providers showing “insufficient improvement” (click here for full story).

When taking into account the old-style frameworks, which had just 9,640 leavers last year and recorded a 63.5 per cent achievement rate, the overall apprenticeship achievement rate reaches 54.6 per cent in 2022/23.

Here’s what else we learned from today’s NARTs…

Steep fall for Lifetime

Achievements at England’s largest apprenticeship training provider have declined by 10 percentage points.

Lifetime Training Group recorded nearly 13,500 leavers in 2022/23, a slight increase on the previous year, but saw both its overall achievement and retention rates reduce from 45 per cent to 35 per cent.

David Smith, Lifetime Training’s CEO, said his provider operates in sectors affected by the aftermath of the pandemic and high staff turnover which resulted in higher withdrawals.

Of the 37 apprenticeship standards measured for its latest achievement rates, its highest volume provision was in retail, hospitality, and care.

Smith also said his figures were “impacted by the learners who were removed from their programmes as a result of being passed their planned end date”.

He said: “Over the past year, we have implemented a series of improvements to our programme offering, which are forecasted to lead to a significant improvement in achievement rates.”

Multiverse Group, rated ‘outstanding’, doubled the number of recorded leavers from 1,800 to 3,630 but saw its achievement rate decline by 10.9 percentage points to 51.8.

A Multiverse spokesperson told FE Week the drop was due to a “substantial” number of apprentices who withdrew because they changed employer.

“We believe this is partially the result of increased job changes post-pandemic,” they said, adding: “We’ve implemented new processes to enable apprentices to stay on programme if they move jobs and that’s already had an effect on reducing withdrawals.”

Babcock International attributed its 26 per cent achievement rate to its “divestment” from most of its apprenticeships during the year. 

HIT hits out at ‘inaccurate’ figures

The boss of another of the country’s largest training providers has accused the ESFA of knowingly publishing inaccurate data about its apprenticeship performance.

Official published figures report HIT Training’s 2022/23 achievement rate as 41 per cent. This is 6.8 percentage points below HIT’s own calculated overall figure.

Jill Whittaker, executive chair of HIT Training, claimed there was multiple data quality issues which ESFA was aware of, including double counting leavers and “historic uncorrected errors”.

She told FE Week that ESFA officials had agreed there were errors in HIT’s QAR calculation and reneged on an agreement to redact their figures.

Whittaker said she was informed yesterday, a day before publication, that its application for a redaction had been rejected.

The Department for Education denied any wrongdoing. “We refute this allegation – the process for redaction has been followed,” a spokesperson said.

HIT data shared with FE Week shows differences ranging from -12.5 and 15.6 percentage points between the ESFA and HIT’s figures for its apprenticeship standards.

“After over 25 years of trusting and working collaboratively with the ESFA and the various bodies that went before them, I am very sad to say they have let us, and themselves, down. It is too early to understand the impact of the publication of this erroneous data on our 5,000 plus learners,” Whittaker said.

Of the 1,071 providers that recorded an achievement rate for 2022/23, just one was excluded due to data errors.

A University of Chester spokesperson said its request for a redaction from this year’s figures was accepted by the ESFA after identifying “an issue” with their R14 data return giving incorrect figures.

Rates improve across most provider types

Achievement rates grew for every provider type this year, except for specialist colleges.

The largest rise was in schools, 66.4 per cent to 76.8 per cent, but this represents just four providers and 140 apprenticeship leavers.

For independent training providers, which deliver the vast majority of apprenticeships, achievement rates improved by 0.8 percentage points to 51.2 per cent.

The DfE’s ‘other public funded’ category – made up mostly of local authorities and universities – came close to hitting the government’s 67 per cent target scoring an overall achievement rate of 65 per cent this year.

There were just over 2,000 fewer apprenticeship leavers in further education colleges in 2022/23 compared to the previous year, but the overall achievement rate increased from 50.4 per cent to 57.8 per cent.

Specialist colleges on the other hand increased the number of leavers, from 1,990 to 2,190 but saw their overall achievement rates decline from 57.9 per cent to 54.2 per cent.

Gap between most and least deprived narrows

The achievement gap between apprentices from most and least deprived households narrowed slightly in 2022/23 – but is still higher than in 2020/21.

Officials use the index of multiple deprivation (IMD) to classify the home areas of apprentices into five quintiles of relative deprivation.

DfE figures state the average achievement rate of apprentices from the most deprived quintile was 49.5 per cent in 2022/23, 8.9 percentage points lower than apprentices from the least deprived areas.

The same gap in 2021/22 was 9.8 percentage points but in 2020/21 was 7.7 percentage points.

But gap between LLDD grows 

The gap between apprentices with learning difficulties and/or disabilities (LLDD) and their peers has grown, according to the latest achievements data.

Thirteen per cent of apprentice leavers in 2022/23 were recorded as having a learning difficulty and/or disability, and had an average achievement rate of 51 per cent. For apprentices without LLDD, the achievement rate was 55.3 per cent.

This 4.3 percentage point difference is higher than in 2021/22 and 2020/21.

Achievements for LLDD apprentices improved slightly from 50.6 per cent in 2021/22 but remain lower than the 54.6 achievement rate recorded in 2020/21.

Ethnicity gap also grows 

There was a 6.8 percentage point gap between apprentices from ethnic minority and white apprentices, the highest in the past three years.

Figures for 2022/23 reveal the average achievement rate for ethnic minority apprentices was 48.9 per cent, compared to 55.7 per cent for white apprentices.

The largest achievement gap continues to be between apprentices from Black, African and Caribbean backgrounds and white backgrounds – a 10.2 percentage point difference. This is an increase from an 8.7 percentage point difference in 2021/22 and 7.1 percentage point difference the year before. 

Only the mixed/multiple ethnic group saw a slight reduction in the achievement gap with white apprentices this year.

Level 6 improves the most 

Compared to the previous year, achievement rates on level 6 apprenticeships have improved the most.

Figures for 2022/23 showed an average achievement rate for level 6 apprentices of 65.7 per cent, the closest of all levels to the government target. The achievement rate for this group of apprentices was 57.3 per cent in 2021/22.

Achievement rates for level 2 apprenticeships increased 4.9 percentage points to 53.9 per cent.

The lowest performing apprenticeships were at level 4, which scored an overall achievement rate of 46.9 per cent, down from 47.4 per cent in 2021/22. Level 7 apprenticeships also saw a 0.5 percentage point decline to 57.8 per cent. 

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  1. Phil Hatton

    I wonder if the ESFA has any data on the numbers of apprentices recruited via the employer incentive who had poor IAG and employers who really just wanted the money? I suspect it helped increase both numbers and those leaving early. If you are a provider look at this factor if and when the ESFA contact you and to include in your next SAR