First apprentices awarded ‘professional status’ post-nominals

Sixteen apprentices are among the first to receive post-nominals through a new “game-changing” professional recognition scheme.

The Association of Apprentices (AoA) and the Chartered Institution for Further Education (CIFE) launched the post-apprenticeship recognition scheme (PARS) in November to “elevate the societal and industrial cachet” of apprenticeships and help to increase retention and achievements.

Successful apprentices are awarded a “professional status” and post-nominal designations through the scheme depending on their apprenticeship level.

Post-nominal designations are typically awarded for graduate-level qualifications, honours or professional body memberships, but have today been awarded to apprentices for the first time. 

Jason Holt, co-founder and vice-chair of AoA, said at the scheme’s launch last year it “will be game-changing for apprenticeships, elevating the recognition and value of vocational education and raising parity of esteem with other learning routes”.

CIFE and AoA have run a pilot of the scheme and said all 16 applicants were successful. The 16 apprentices range from level 2 to level 7, are the first in the country to be awarded the new professional status. 

The apprentices were announced this afternoon at a joint AoA and UCAS event at Mansion House in London during National Apprenticeship Week (full list below).

Speaking at the event, Dawn Ward, vice chair of CIFE and chief executive of Burton and South Derbyshire College, said: “I want to pay special thanks to a group of 16 amazing former apprentices who have taken part in the PARS pilot programme. I’m excited to announce that as of today, they are able to use their post-nominals.

“They are the trailblazers – first in the country – for many more qualified apprentices to follow this route. Congratulations.”

Apprentices recognised through the scheme can use post-nominals that correspond to the level of their apprenticeship:

  • CSA (Certificate of Standard Apprenticeship) – level 2
  • CAA (Certificate of Advanced Apprenticeship) – level 3
  • CHA (Certificate of Higher Apprenticeship) – level 4/5
  • CGA (Certificate of Graduate Apprenticeship) – level 6+

Employers signed up to the scheme to date include the BBC, Royal Mail, Amazon and training providers Umbrella Training and Lifetime Training.

The AoA and CIFE are now evaluating the PARS pilot and said the programme will be open for applications in “early summer”. There will be a fee to apply.

To be eligible, apprentices need to have passed their end-point assessment and have their application supported by their employer or an industry sponsor. 

Applicants also need to provide examples of how their apprenticeship has “helped them to make a positive impact”.

Care apprenticeship provider slated for focus on diploma rather than OTJ and EPA

An adult care apprenticeship provider has been hit with an ‘inadequate’ rating after Ofsted found unsupported off-the-job training and “uninspiring” teaching.

Geoseis Consultant Limited, which trades as Geotraining, was also criticised for focusing on the achievement of a diploma qualification that is only part of the apprenticeship while failing to make apprentices aware of their end-point assessment.

The provider started delivering apprenticeship training in April 2020 but today received Ofsted’s lowest possible judgment in its first full inspection. The firm now faces likely contract termination from the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

Geotraining had 55 apprentices on adult care programmes from levels 2 to 5 based in the Midlands at the time of Ofsted’s visit in November.

Too few apprentices have achieved their apprenticeship and hardly any have completed it on time, according to the inspectorate’s report.

The watchdog found that too many apprentices do not receive their full entitlement to off-the-job training, which should be a minimum of six hours per week. Most Geotraining are also required to learn in their own time and are “not supported” by their employer.

Ofsted raised concern that level 2 apprentices “learn in noisy workplaces”, or through online meetings with no practical opportunities.

Inspectors took aim at Geotraining leaders for not ensuring that the basic requirements of an apprenticeship are promoted to and implemented by employers.

The report claimed that too many employers are “only interested in their apprentices achieving the diploma qualification, which is only part of the apprenticeship, rather than the knowledge, skills and behaviours that the apprenticeship standard prescribes”.

Apprentices are “often unaware of the requirements of the end-point assessment or the requirements of the broader apprenticeship”.

The government is currently implementing reforms to align qualifications within apprenticeships with end-point assessments after discovering this was a key reason why nearly half of apprentices drop out before completing their programme every year.

Ofsted had found Geotraining making ‘reasonable progress’ in an early monitoring visit report published in November 2022. But since then, the firm’s director has reduced the size of permanent staff, according to today’s full inspection report, and the remaining managers and team members “do not have the knowledge or skills to manage, monitor and improve the quality of training that apprentices receive”.

The few tutors that remain “do not have the time or skills to provide effective training to apprentices”, Ofsted added.

As a result, too many apprentices “do not receive timely and regular reviews of their progress, receive a poor standard of training and make slow progress on their apprenticeship”.

Apprentices also reported feeling “frustrated by constant changes in tutors which has slowed their progress”.

There is no external independent oversight of Geotraining’s leaders, who fail to systematically review and evaluate achievement, retention and attendance data, Ofsted said.

The watchdog concluded: “Leaders’ oversight of the quality of education is not fit for purpose. Their assessment of the quality of education that apprentices receive is too positive and does not identify the many weaknesses at the provider.”

Geotraining did not respond to requests for comment.

Birmingham sixth form college awarded ‘outstanding’ second time running

Birmingham’s only sixth form college has received its second consecutive ‘outstanding’ grade from Ofsted.

Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College (JCC) was given top marks again by inspectors for its ambitious curriculum, highly structured governance and skilful teaching.

In the watchdog’s report published this morning, inspectors found learners were “extremely positive about their learning” and make “substantial and sustained progress from their starting points”.

At the time of the inspection, conducted in December, the college had 2,375 learners studying academic and vocational courses entry level to level 3. JCC also employed one subcontractor to teach 790 adult learners on ESOL courses.

Ofsted praised the college’s “strong” contribution to meeting skills needs. This included prioritising digital skills in adult learning courses and having strong links with employers and higher education providers to improve learning in real-time.

Tony Day, principal of JCC, said: “[The report is] the perfect endorsement of the tireless work we do to educate and support our students.”

Inspectors said that teachers expertly use a variety of teaching strategies and resources as well as using assessment to inform and plan their teaching. They were also commended for teaching learners to use subject-specific technical vocabulary “exceptionally well”.

“Learners develop substantial new knowledge and skills and produce work to a consistently high standard,” the report said.

JCC’s governance was also commended for its “highly coherent structure”. Inspectors said governors, who comprise “experienced practitioners”, provide robust challenge and actively support leaders and staff to achieve their strategic goals.

For example, Ofsted inspectors found the board to scrutinise leaders on performance, teacher retention and equality and diversity at the college.

Regarding its subcontracting provision, the watchdog found the college works “highly effective” with Birmingham Ethnic Education and Advisor Service and has “robust systems to oversee the quality of education that the subcontractor provides”.

Inspectors added that college leaders are actively involved in designing the ESOL course which targets the hardest-to-reach members of the community, including refugees and migrants. It has resulted in learners developing skills to “successfully integrate” within their communities.

In a statement on its website, the college said the report recognised its mission of providing “an exceptional education for all”.

“The recent Ofsted report reveals JCC to be a truly exceptional institution and the first sixth form College in England that has been judged as making a ‘strong’ contribution (the highest possible grade) to the development of skills urgently in demand among the local community as well as the wider country,” the statement added.

Ofsted rejects RAAC inspection exemption call

Ofsted has rejected calls to automatically exempt education providers with RAAC from inspection, but urged leaders to use its deferral policy if they get the call.

In the autumn term, the watchdog removed all schools and colleges affected by the crumbly concrete from its inspection schedule.

But since January, these education providers have been eligible for inspection.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, wrote yesterday to education secretary Gillian Keegan to request an extension of the approach.

He asked “that you instruct Ofsted to continue to avoid scheduling for inspection any school on the published RAAC list until the school is fully operational, unless the headteacher has notified Ofsted that they are happy to undergo an inspection”.

In a statement issued today, Ofsted said RAAC schools would be eligible for inspection this term, “however this will be sufficient grounds to defer the inspection, should the school wish to”.

A spokesperson from Ofsted confirmed to FE Week that this approach also applies to FE colleges.

“We know that the situation with RAAC is still causing challenges for school staff, pupils and their parents and guardians,” the watchdog’s statement added.

“For schools that do not have confirmed RAAC but may still be impacted by RAAC, for example where a school is hosting pupils from schools that have RAAC, we will carefully consider any requests for a deferral of an inspection.”

It comes after Barton took aim in his letter at the pace of government action to address the RAAC crisis in education.

He said the danger of structural failure in buildings where RAAC was used in construction “has been known since at least 2018”.

‘Extremely difficult position’

“The unacceptable length of time it has taken the government to act on a risk of this seriousness has led directly to the extremely difficult position in which many leaders now find themselves.”

He also echoed calls for mitigations to exams for students in affected settings.

Where schools and colleges have had to close specialist provision like science labs, “students in these subjects should automatically be given special consideration for coursework and non-exam assessment (NEA) in any subjects affected”.

This “should be at a cohort level, without the need for centres to apply individually for each candidate, as is currently the case”.

He added that special consideration “should include the maximum extended time to complete the NEA, and the maximum percentage of additional marks available under current JCQ guidance”.

He also called on chancellor Jeremy Hunt to introduce a “new recovery funding stream for all 231 RAAC-impacted schools [and colleges] in the spring budget”, and said government must ensure outstanding RAAC spending by education providers is reimbursed “as soon as possible”.

Hundreds of small businesses utilise removal of apprenticeship cap

More than 250 small and medium-sized employers have already recruited over 10 apprentices since the government scrapped a cap on starts last year.

SMEs were restricted to a maximum of ten apprenticeship starts from 2020 until April 3, 2023.

Ministers finally decided to abolish the cap after consecutive resets amid warnings from FE Week and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers that non-levy paying businesses were being forced to turn apprentices away after hitting the limit.

Skills minister Robert Halfon has now revealed, in answer to a parliamentary question from Grahame Morris MP, that 256 non-levy payers have recruited 11 or more apprentices since the policy change came into force 10 months ago.

The majority – 214 – hired between 11 and 19 apprentices, while 33 had starts of between 20 and 29.

Six other SMEs managed to enrol between 30 and 39 apprentices, another recruited between 40 and 49, and two managed to enlist over 50.

Number of starts since April 2023 (grouped)Number of non-levy employer accounts
11-19214
20-2933
30-396
40-491
50+2
Source: Department for Education

The figures come at the start 17th annual National Apprenticeship Week.

Tina McKenzie, policy chair at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “It’s great to see so many non-levy payers taking on larger numbers of apprentices since the cap was lifted, bringing in lots of new talent for them to nurture.”

However, McKenzie warned that taking on numerous apprentices is still financially out of reach for most small businesses. She called for the current £1,000 bonus for hiring an under-19 apprentice to be increased to £3,000 for small businesses and expanded to cover under-25s.

The SME cap was originally introduced in January 2020 with a limit of three new apprenticeship starts, before it was lifted to ten in summer 2020.

Small businesses that do not pay the apprenticeship levy receive 95 per cent of training costs from the apprenticeship budget, funded by levy paying businesses.

The rationale of the cap had been that it would help prevent the overall apprenticeships budget from being overspent.

Simon Ashworth, AELP director of policy, said it was “positive that the removal of cap of ten non-levy starts cap has enabled more employers to access the benefits we know that apprenticeships bring”.

However, he warned that although the changes have helped, the government still hasn’t “addressed the wider barrier of employer engagement and accessing opportunities in the first place”.

“It is critical to get the apprenticeship service system working more effectively, for SMEs including by giving providers more autonomy”, Ashworth said, adding that the current “expert” provider pilot has the potential to support this change.

Electric car charging grants for colleges rise to £2,500

The government has increased a grant offered to schools and colleges to install electric car charging points to £2,500, and said settings could use them to generate revenue.

Under the scheme, state-funded schools, colleges and nurseries could previously apply for up to £350 towards the cost of installing charge points.

Today, technology minister Anthony Browne announced the government will now cover up to 75 per cent of the cost of buying and installing the points, up to £2,500 per socket.

Charge points could be used by staff and visitors, and the government said education institutions could also “generate revenue by making their chargepoints available to the public”.

The announcement is part of a wider scheme to create more charging infrastructure across England. Funding of £381 million is going to local authorities to install the technology in their areas.

‘Exciting opportunity’

Baroness Barran, the academies minister, said it was an “exciting opportunity to become part of an ongoing move towards a greener public sector”. 

Baroness Barran
Baroness Barran

“Schools [and other education settings] engaging with this grant will be supporting the development of green infrastructure, helping to improve their local environments.

“Developing a greener education estate is a key element of our sustainability and climate change strategy. The expansion of this grant supports our ambition to improve the sustainability of our schools in the ongoing move towards net zero.”

The government said its schools grant was for state-funded education institutions, including colleges, “which must have dedicated off-street parking facilities”. Applications can be made online.

Ofsted orders review into wiped evidence claims

Ofsted chief Sir Martyn Oliver has ordered a “rapid review” of the inspectorate’s system for recording inspection evidence after long-standing issues with data being wiped were revealed.

On Friday, FE Week’s sister publication Schools Week revealed how the electronic evidence gathering (EEG) system has for years suffered glitches that force inspectors to re-record their findings, sometimes from memory after a visit has ended.

Sir Martyn Oliver
Sir Martyn Oliver

Multiple current and former inspectors described situations in which their screen “froze” and evidence “disappeared” in front of their eyes during visits. Others discovered evidence had been wiped upon returning to their hotel room.

Following Schools Week’s story, the Observer also covered the problems, as well as claims inspectors had been forced to “make up” evidence after the system crashed.

An Ofsted spokesperson told Schools Week it had seen “nothing to support the claim that evidence has been ‘made up’ – something that would never be tolerated”. 

But they added: “Sir Martyn is initiating a rapid review to satisfy himself that the EEG and the guidance to inspectors is robust. If schools or inspectors have any concerns, we would want to hear about them directly, so we can respond appropriately.”

‘Blame turned back on inspectors’

Current and former inspectors told Schools Week that Ofsted was repeatedly warned about the problems, but initially refused to accept there was something wrong and “blame turned back on the individual inspectors”.

Ofsted said it was “aware that on some occasions inspectors can have issues with the EEG, for example connecting to WiFI due to the provider they are in or to the system itself”.

But they said these issues were “more frequent when the system was first introduced” and inspectors have been “instructed to use other means to record their evidence in these circumstances”. 

The watchdog also said it believed there had “only been a very small number of instances since 2019 where we have declared an inspection incomplete as a result of a technical issue”. This was said to potentially be as low as one or two.

In those instances, “we have then returned to the school to collect more evidence to ensure the judgement is secure”, the watchdog said.

Countdown to milestone 10th Annual Apprenticeship Conference

The countdown to the 10th Annual Apprenticeship Conference (AAC) is in its final stages with organisers announcing final keynote speakers.

This flagship event, renowned for bringing together apprenticeship employers, providers, and enthusiasts, is set to be the biggest yet, with over 1,200 delegates expected to attend. Taking place at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Birmingham on the 26th and 27th of February.

The AAC will serve as a platform for crucial political dialogue, especially given the proximity of the upcoming General Election. Keynote speeches from the apprenticeship minister, Robert Halfon and Seema Malhotra MP of the Labour Party are particularly noteworthy. Their participation promises to shed light on each party’s stance and policies on apprenticeships, offering invaluable insights to delegates.

Sir Martyn Oliver, the newly appointed Chief Inspector of Ofsted, will make his first major education conference appearance since his appointment earlier this year. Sir Martyn’s session is highly anticipated, as it is expected to shed further light on his vision and priorities for the education sector.

Sir Martyn Oliver, HMCI Ofsted
Sir Martyn Oliver, HMCI Ofsted

Adding to the conference’s high-profile speaker lineup, Rory Stewart, a distinguished political thinker, will deliver a keynote speech on “Politics, Populism and the World”. This session is set to offer a profound understanding of global political dynamics, drawing from Stewart’s extensive experience.

A cornerstone of the AAC is its extensive workshop program. Over the two-day event, more than 60 workshops will be offered, covering a wide array of topics relevant to apprenticeships. These workshops are delivered by partners such as the Department for Education, Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, Ofsted, and Ofqual, among others. The breadth and depth of these sessions underscore the conference’s commitment to advancing the apprenticeship agenda.

Highlights video of AAC 2023.

A highlight of the AAC will be the Gala Dinner and Awards Evening on Tuesday. This sell-out event will host an audience of 550 people, eagerly awaiting the results of the AAC Apprenticeship Awards. The gala dinner not only celebrates the achievements within the apprenticeship sector but also offers an unparalleled networking opportunity for the attendees.

The conference will also feature a bustling exhibition hall, where more than 50 exhibitors will showcase their latest offers and products.

FE Week, as the proud media partner, will be covering the event in detail. Organised by FE Week’s publisher, EducationScape, the conference is a testament to the continued importance and evolving nature of apprenticeships in the UK’s education and workforce landscape.

For further information and to register for the event visit: https://feweekaac.com

School teacher degree apprenticeship to launch in 2025

The government will launch a long-awaited school teacher degree apprenticeship for non-graduates next year, it has been announced.

The four-year course, which would see apprentices achieve a degree and qualified teacher status, will be piloted with “up to” 150 trainee maths teachers from September 2025. 

Apprentices would spend “around 40 per cent” of their time studying and the rest of the time in the classroom, the Department for Education said.

The government missed its secondary teacher recruitment target by 50 per cent this year.

Planning for a route that does not require applicants to already have a degree has gone on behind the scenes for years. Without such a route, schools have limited ways to spend money they pay into the apprenticeship levy. 

But earlier attempts to create such a route never came to fruition, in part due to opposition from former schools minister Nick Gibb, who left government in November.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan said the teacher degree apprenticeship (TDA) would be a “game-changing opportunity for schools to nurture and retain talent from the ground up, helping apprentices to gain the knowledge and skills they need to teach future generations.

Gillian Keegan

“The teacher degree apprenticeship will open up the profession to more people, from those who want a career change to those who are looking for an earn and learn route without student debt.”

A 12-month postgraduate apprenticeship route has existed for several years but requires applicants to already hold a degree. 

Government data shows 630 people achieved the qualification in 2021-22. ITT census figures show 962 applied for the course this academic year.

Route for non-graduates

The DfE said its teacher degree apprenticeship would offer a “high-quality, alternative route for people to become qualified teachers”, and would “diversity the route into teaching so schools across the country can continue to recruit the teachers they need”.

The department added the new route would “provide a new route for teaching assistants who do not have an existing degree to train to become a teacher and continue their career progression in the classroom”.

The government will double the current minimum off-the-job training requirements from 20 per cent to “around 40 per cent” for teacher degree apprentices.

The DfE said apprentices would spend “around 40 per cent of their time studying for their degree with an accredited teacher training provider, gain qualified teacher status and all tuition fees are paid for, so trainees won’t be saddled with the student debt”.

It is also not clear whether the government will expect the qualification to be offered only by universities, or whether other teacher training providers will be given degree-awarding powers.

The department said it was “working with subject experts and the trailblazer group to co-develop how universities and schools offering the TDA can ensure secondary subject specialism is comprehensive and high-quality”.

The courses also “must adhere to the ITT criteria, encompass all aspects of the ITT core content framework (CCF) and enable trainees to meet the teacher standards”.

‘Unlikely’ to solve teacher shortages

Ministers will launch recruitment to the pilot scheme in the autumn. It will see the government “working with a small number of schools and teacher training providers to fund up to 150 apprentices to work in secondary schools to teach maths”. 

Training providers “will bid to partake in the pilot and trainees will be recruited from this autumn and start their training the following year”.

The teacher degree apprenticeship grant funding pilot will only include government funding for the training of one cohort. 

After that, schools will have to use levy funding. The DfE said providers and schools would also be able to “develop and run” apprenticeship courses with their own funding from September 2025.

The apprenticeship has been developed by a “trailblazer group” – panels of employers that draw up the standards that underpin courses. 

The group is chaired by the South Farnham Educational Trust, whose chief executive Sir Andrew Carter led the government’s review of teacher training in 2015.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL leaders’ union, said while the apprenticeship was a “good idea in principle”, it was “unlikely that teacher degree apprenticeships will provide anywhere near the number of qualified teachers required to solve the recruitment and retention crisis”.

He added that he was “concerned about how realistic this will be in reality for many schools given the number of competing demands on them and the lack of sufficient staffing and funding in the education system”.