A new report finds that apprenticeships in the UK are “one of the least successful provision types” with “too many” judged inadequate.

Ofsted, Office for Standards in Education. Children’s Services and Skills, have released a new report which analyses various elements of education and care within the UK. The findings of the report suggest that there are more improvements needed, especially when considering apprenticeships.

It states that the criteria used to differentiate good providers with “less than good” providers is linked to the curriculum offered. It finds that the majority of Further Education and Skills (FES) providers have a “specialist curriculum based on the knowledge and skills needed for particular vocational routes”.

However, less effective providers are lacking a sufficiently ambitious curriculum for their learners and apprentices. It says that these providers focus solely on achieving qualifications rather than allowing apprentices to gain the wider knowledge and skills required for work or their next steps.

Worryingly, the report found that apprenticeships in the UK were the “weakest” part of the Further Education and Skills system.

The report highlights that almost a quarter (24 per cent) of apprenticeship providers that received new provider monitoring visits this year had at least one insufficient progress judgement. Ofsted states that this was due to “weak leadership” and “a lack of co-development of the curriculum with employers”.

Apprentices were also most likely to have their learning impacted by the pandemic. The report outlines that over a third (36 per cent) of apprentices were furloughed during the pandemic whilst almost one in 10 (8 per cent) were made redundant. Additionally, almost a fifth (17 per cent) had their off-the-job learning suspended.

Another area which was significantly affected by the pandemic was the financial side of apprenticeships. Whilst most providers are funded through the apprenticeship levy, this funding had not been guaranteed during COVID-19. Furthermore, a key source of providers’ income comes from businesses buying their training. However, due to the effect of COVID-19, some of these businesses will not have money to do this or will go out of business themselves, leaving independent learning providers vulnerable.

Overall, Ofsted recorded key areas which had to be improved – most notably, leaders failing to ensure that apprentices received their entitlement to planned on and off-the-job training and apprenticeships not encouraging staff to develop new knowledge, skills and behaviours.

*This research was taken from Ofsted’s 2019/2020 report ‘The Annual Report of her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills’ which was published in December 2020.