All providers on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers, that have never delivered apprenticeships as a ‘prime’ before, are subject to an Ofsted Early Monitoring Visit. Marshall of Cambridge is one of just three organisations (so far) to have be judged to be making ‘Significant Progress’ across all three inspected themes.
But what did they learn from the process? SDN caught up with Rebecca Tarbox, Head of Funding & Vocational Training, and Steve Iddon, Lead Tutor & IQA, for an honest assessment and some practical advice to help new providers prepare for their visit…
First, let’s start with the process:
So, if you’re on the RoATP and considered a ‘new’ provider of apprenticeship training, you will receive an early monitoring visit from Ofsted within 24 months of starting to deliver apprenticeship training at Levels 2 to 5. You have two days’ notice, just like a full inspection.
This visit isn’t just for brand new training providers either, but employer providers and organisations that may have been delivering apprenticeships as a subcontractor for years. Essentially, it’s for all providers now responsible for the quality of the apprenticeship provision. The process is intended to support providers in the early months of operation.
Which themes does it cover?
The Early Monitoring visit covers three themes:
- Leadership. How much progress have leaders made to ensure that they meet all the requirements of successful apprenticeship provision?
- The quality and outcomes of training. What progress have leaders and managers made to make sure that apprentices receive high-quality training that leads to positive outcomes?
- Safeguarding. How much progress have leaders and managers made in ensuring that safeguarding arrangements are effective?
Want more detail from Ofsted’s point of view? Read HMI Specialist Adviser for Apprenticeships, Chris Jones’ blog post on Ofsted’s website.
Five things for providers to consider – advice from Marshall of Cambridge:
- Employer buy-in
“When Ofsted came to see us at Marshall, we were surprised that the CEO was one of the first people they wanted to speak with. Even though we are an employer provider, it was clear that the inspectors were keen to see there was buy-in right at the top from the ‘employer side’ of the business and not just the training division.
“They wanted to be sure that the business, not just us as a ‘provider’, had the best interests of the apprentices at heart. This meant the CEO having a clear plan for apprentices, and line managers being supportive in helping apprentices develop on the job.”
- Curriculum intent
“The inspectors quizzed us on our curriculum at length. At first it felt like they were criticising it, but it became evident that they were checking we knew why we had chosen to structure the curriculum the way we had. They wanted us to be able to demonstrate intent.
“From here they spoke to our apprentices at length. This was to verify that our intent for the curriculum was being implemented and apprentices had learned the skills, knowledge and behaviours expected of them by that point in their apprenticeship programme.”
SDN’s upcoming webinar series on curriculum planning covers intent and implementation of curriculum for apprenticeship standards – plus curriculum templates are included!
- Know your weaknesses
“It sounds strange to have weaknesses as a ‘tip’, but Ofsted commented that our Self Assessment Review (SAR) sounded like a promotional brochure rather than a critique of where we were and what we could improve on.
“They told us it was important we understood our strengths and weaknesses, and are comfortable acknowledging there is always room for improvement. Our SAR is now much more like a SWOT analysis and we update the QiP regularly to identify areas of continuous improvement that were clearly linked to the ‘impact on leaners’.”
“Inspectors looked for three-pieces of evidence to tie together to show we were working in the interests of the apprentices. For example, they would ask to see management meeting minutes and if they saw an action on the minutes, they would also expect to see it on the QiP and happening on the ground for the apprentices.
“Our lesson observations during the visit were geared towards checking our IQA process was up-to-scratch; that staff could analyse where lessons could be improved, feedback to colleagues consistently and evidence changes were happening.”
- Listen and learn
“It’s worth saying that the monitoring visit did not feel like a full inspection. It was a very supportive process, with Ofsted giving us good tips to make improvements throughout the two days.
“They were trying to tease out what impact our decisions had on the apprentices – and help us make amendments to improve the experience for our apprentices where decisions weren’t focused enough.
“Overall it was a really positive experience. We learned a great deal to take forward. To also be recognised as making significant progress across all three themes, was the icing on the cake, and has given us confidence that we are going about things the right way and are rightly proud of our apprenticeship programme.”
For more details on how Marshalls of Cambridge embed employee development in their organisation – visit their website.
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