Ofsted chief stresses ‘real challenge’ with apprenticeships register

Ofsted’s chief inspector has reiterated the “real challenge” faced by the education watchdog following the influx of new training providers who deliver apprenticeships.

Amanda Spielman described the issue as a “big problem” during an interview with Laura McInerney, the editor of FE Week’s sister paper FE Week, at the Festival of Education and Skills today.

But she also revealed that she doesn’t expect the inspectorate to need more resource to deal with the issue, saying she will retain the same number of employees to work in the post-16 system.

Published initially in March, the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers included 1,473 organisations who were given the green light to deliver apprenticeships from May and therefore were in scope for inspection from Ofsted.

Laura McInerney left interviewing Amanda Spielman at the Festival of Education and Skills

RoATP was then updated in May, adding 421 providers. The register now sits at 1,894 providers who could be inspected.

After being asked how the inspectorate is coping with the new providers, Ms Spielman said: “First of all my expectation is that some of those will never actually translate into actual provision.

“But as you can imagine it is something that we have got live discussions with government about to make sure that we have [enough resource] and understand where the apprentices are actually being trained to make sure we prioritise the places where there are significant numbers.”

She went on to say that FE Week editor, Nick Linford, has “picked us [Ofsted] up in the past” for inspecting small providers, “but the way the data is held in the system can make it remarkably difficult to be sure that we are going to the places where big numbers are being trained,” she added.

“So there is a real challenge. We have got some unpredictable movements in where the apprentices are over the next couple of years so we will be doing our best to make sure that we track and put our inspection resource into the right places.”

Ms McInerney then asked if as a result of the scale of these new providers, there is a risk that money or staff will have to come over from Ofsted school inspectors to deal with the influx, or if the inspectorate would get more resource to deal with the issue separately.

“Well there are the same number of bodies in the post-16 system so in the first instance it is thinking about how to allocate it to make sure we are putting the effort where people are,” Ms Spielman said.

Amanda Spielman describing the real challenge faced by RoATP

Ms McInerney pressed the chief inspector to clarify whether this meant any more resource would be needed, but she replied: “I’m not making any assumptions in the current environment about resources.”

Ms Spielman’s speech today follows an interview with Mr Linford in March where she first revealed her concern about coping with the scale of RoATP.

Later that month at FE Week’s Annual Apprenticeship Conference the outgoing boss of the Education and Skills Funding Agency, Peter Lauener, admitted there had been no modelling done by the agency to predict how many providers will eventually end up on the register.

The register now sits at 1,894 providers who could be inspected.

The ESFA RoATP application process will take place four times per year.

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  1. Nelly B.

    What about the load of “new” Employer Providers (recruited by the SFA’s Large Employer Unit) that were awarded their own contracts in 2012/13, that have still not been inspected. The SFA had been warned about their lack of systems at the time. They probably have yet had financial audits either.
    All of these new cowboys won’t be inspected for years and will rip the arse out of the system and get well established training providers and bad name, especially with FE Week.

    • Graham

      Totally agree with your comment – established providers are easy to spot – they do regular data returns and are visible. Our experience of picking up the pieces from employer provider and EOP provision (forced on us by SFA) has shown the extent to which these projects were poorly managed and the very poor use of public funds involved. One of the EOP providers didn’t know which learners belonged to which employer – at a price of £17,000 per learner! The apprenticeship framework these learners did had a published rate, at the time, of £2500.

      If it wasn’t so tragic I’d laugh at “rip the arse off”. But it is tragic. OfSted need to get out there asap and start visiting the newcomers – whether they have learners or not – and do some basic fitness for purpose checks eg show me the resources, show me your DBS checks, show me your Safeguarding policy, show me your iAG processes, show me your centre apptovals etc.

      A watchdog that doesn’t have the resource to watch all of the players is basically a chocolate fireguard.

  2. Norman

    What’s the problem as the RoATP only allows high quality organisations to get through so do we need anything else? Not according to Halfon and smith