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Good prospects for apprentices

Even though the Leicester university report makes uncomfortable reading in places, I broadly welcome its findings (TES, September 9). It correctly highlights those areas of concern around apprenticeships that we are already working hard to address.

The leadership and management of apprenticeship providers and the development of a close relationship with employers lie at the heart of effective programmes. These are at the heart of Agenda for Change.

Recruiting the right young people to the right programmes with high-quality induction and the chance to change options where appropriate in the early weeks is essential, and continuing support and effective mentoring right through to the end of their programme ensure high achievement rates.

Sharing and implementing good practice to bring the performance of all up to and beyond the standards of the best learning and skills councils is our aim.

The quality of provision has dramatically improved and, whilst we still have some way to go, the improvements in achievement rates and inspection grades show our continuing progress.

The reason the Leicester report does not conclude that poor quality is at the heart of the problem is that this is not true. Nor is your assertion that apprenticeships lead nowhere. The vast majority of apprentices are already employed - and hence being paid to learn. These young people and their employers know that they are well on their way to lucrative careers with excellent prospects which often include the chance to go on to higher education with tuition fees paid by their employer. While many in education may think that only A-levels have "status", many young people are making their own choice.

Stephen Gardner

Director of Work Based Learning

Learning and Skills Council

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