Ofsted slams apprenticeship provider for training ‘more akin to CPD’

Inspectors said apprentices already had experience of the sector so shouldn’t be eligible for apprenticeship funding

Inspectors said apprentices already had experience of the sector so shouldn’t be eligible for apprenticeship funding

23 Jun 2023, 16:40

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An apprenticeship training provider for eye healthcare specialists is “astonished” at its “inadequate” Ofsted rating after inspectors claimed its training was “more akin to CPD programmes” and therefore “not sufficient to claim public funds.”

The Association of Health Professions in Ophthalmology, which had 14 adult apprentices studying the two-year level four healthcare science associate apprenticeship, was handed the rating after an inspection at the end of March.

Ofsted shed doubt over the association’s ability to claim public funds for an apprenticeship, as the apprentices “do not develop substantial new knowledge, skills and behaviours” beyond what they knew before they started, as many have already worked as ophthalmic technicians for five years.

“The knowledge that they do acquire is not sufficient to claim public funds for an apprenticeship and is more akin to continuous professional development (CPD) activities that should be funded by their employer,” the report added.

Ofsted said the association’s apprentices “do not receive any teaching” during their apprenticeship, and they pass at the end of their apprenticeship “due to their extensive experience and knowledge of the sector” accrued before the apprenticeship began.

Inspectors gave the association “inadequate” ratings in four of the five judgements. Behaviour and attitudes scored a “requires improvement”. That gave it an overall “inadequate” rating.

The association has appealed against the rating, saying that it was “quite frankly astonished that Ofsted inspectors, who do not have knowledge, skills or experience in our sector, believed they were competent to determine the training of staff in our sector”.

They said the National School of Healthcare Science, part of the NHS, had designed the apprenticeship’s curriculum, and that prospective apprentices always have a “comprehensive skills scan” before they are accepted onto the program to show they do not yet have the required knowledge, skills and behaviour which they would then learn as an apprentice.

But in its appeal to Ofsted, the association said only three of the 14 apprentices had completed the first year of the apprenticeship at the time of the inspection meaning “these comments are unsurprising” as it delivers the ophthalmic-specific skills in the second year of the apprenticeship.

They said apprenticeship standards specify “we should develop apprentices as independent learners and we have designed our delivery accordingly”.

A spokesperson for the association told FE Week that they were “dumbstruck” by Ofsted’s comments. They said there is a difference between being able to press buttons on a machine, as any apprentice would be able to do before the apprenticeship, and “knowing how to assess the quality of the test result, how to identify patient difficulties and artefacts, and how to identify unexpected outcomes and report these to a more senior member of the team.”

But, since the inspection, the association has “introduced recorded reflective reviews” after every unit of teaching so that a learner’s progress can be recorded at every stage of an apprenticeship, to address some of Ofsted’s concerns. They also accepted that “our data collection [on the strengths and weaknesses of the apprentice] has not been perfect and requires improvement”.

The association joined the register of apprenticeship training providers (RoATP) in 2018.

Ofsted rejected the association’s appeal, but the organisation is preparing to appeal against any apprenticeship ban, as is often the case when a provider gets an “inadequate” rating.

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