Ofsted's blog: Dr Christopher Jones on the apprenticeship levy: implications for inspection

21st April 2017 at 09:01

It’s a time of change for apprenticeships, explains Dr Christopher Jones, Ofsted’s specialist adviser for apprenticeships. There’s a new levy and the structure of apprenticeships is changing.

From April 6 an apprenticeship levy of 0.5% came into effect on organisations with a wage bill of over £3 million pounds. The levy must be spent on apprenticeship training that’s on an approved apprenticeship framework or standard. It can’t be used for things such as internal training or apprentice salaries.

Alongside the levy a new model of apprenticeships is emerging – apprenticeship standards. This is much more occupationally specific and linked directly to the needs of employers. And for many apprenticeships there may be no vocational qualifications.

What will we look at?

Inspectors will expect to see that apprentices are developing the knowledge, skills and behaviours as defined by the apprenticeship standard.  They will need to meet the occupational standards and behaviours of their chosen occupation.

English and mathematics are still required qualifications and inspectors will want to see that apprentices are developing these skills. Every apprentice must show that they are developing the literacy and numeracy skills required for their chosen career. And the level will vary depending on the work.

Ofsted is aware that training providers may be delivering apprenticeships training against existing frameworks at the same time as apprenticeships against new standards.

Ofsted has just re-published its Further education and skills inspection handbook this April to make it clear that Ofsted will be inspecting apprenticeships funded through the apprenticeships levy, just as it inspects those funded by ESFA. It has also slightly revised the wording of the apprenticeships evaluation criteria to ensure that it accommodates apprenticeships undertaken against standards as well as frameworks.

Supporting apprentices

Clear learning, skills and career development plans are essential for apprentices. Employers and training providers need to monitor and evaluate those plans frequently. They must also plan and prepare for the end-point assessment. Do they know if they have the skills and attributes required to pass this?

With the introduction of the levy employers will be more accountable for the success of their apprenticeships. And when contracting with training providers they will need to be very clear about how their apprenticeship meets the requirements.

An apprentice must have time off during their normal working hours to learn something new. They must have opportunities to improve their skills, review their learning or take part in training. If none of this happens they aren’t on an apprenticeship and employers need to be clear about the guidelines.