Ofsted key findings have been published from the 36 providers, visited between September and October, as part of Ofsted’s interim visits during the COVID pandemic.

61% of the providers have previously been judged ‘requires improvement’ by the regulator, however these visits do not result in an inspection grade. Instead, Ofsted have provided a published letter sharing with the public how each provider has coped with the challenges the pandemic has caused to the start of the new academic year.

The report key findings states ‘apprentices had mixed experiences’, with many struggling with the uncertainty of furlough, and many providers highlighting the impact on engineering and construction apprentices.

Many apprentices who were furloughed, took a break in learning or were made redundant, had mostly continued their provision and had been retained, especially those who were connected with a new employer. One provider reported ‘normally having 30 apprentices on a break in learning but in April had 152 learners on a break.’ This has now changed to 50 apprenticeships, with the provider, and others, engaging regularly with existing and new employers to secure new placements for learners.

Other Ofsted key findings included;

Recruiting learners

Staff mentioned that recruiting had changed during the pandemic, with numbers of those signing up for certain courses seeing a reduction. However, some providers ‘saw an increase in learners signing up for health and social care and science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects and a decrease in learners signing up for travel and tourism course.’

These changes staff attributed to the rising interest in learners for healthcare and science as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

Additional financial pressures

Nearly all leaders pointed out the additional cost pressures during the pandemic, including staffing, increased day-to-day running costs, and the expense of moving to remote learning, such as purchasing IT equipment, licences for software and more.

The cost of hand sanitiser and other COVID secure necessities had also caused providers additional strain, costs of which had not been budgeted for due to the surprise of the pandemic in early 2020.

Employer relationships boosted

Many providers expressed that their ‘relationships with employers and other organisations had become stronger over this period. They had increased communication and sharing of information between parties.’ Other leaders said they had formed local networks with each other and stakeholders to share good practice.

Remote assessing

Staff had seen an increase in the use of online learning platforms to assess learners. Staff in most providers have been monitoring learners progress remotely by checking work they are completing.

Some created online quizzes, used breakout rooms for smaller-group discussions and then checked learners understanding using the chat features available.

For those who should be completing an end point assessment, some providers had replaced observations of apprentices’ skills with expert witness testimonies, another provider arranged for moto vehicle learners to submit videos of themselves in the workplace.

‘A few providers told us that some of their apprentices had been unable to complete their EPAs because they could not sit their functional skills exam. One provider had switched to an awarding body that could deliver functional skills assessments online so that apprentices’ progression was not held up.’

Course content changes

Some leaders identified that some of their courses ‘did not fit the needs of the changing job market’, prompting them to devise new courses or modify content within existing courses to accommodate the changes. One example of this from one provider included courses for learners’ to develop virtual interview skills.

You can read the full Ofsted key findings report here

For more on how Smart Apprentices can help you through the pandemic or beyond, whether it’s with our eportfolio Smart Assessor, or our virtual learning environment, Smart VLE for functional skills and bespoke knowledge assessments – why not book a demo today?

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