University apprentices ‘at risk of not achieving’ says Ofsted report

Anglia Ruskin University has been told by an education watchdog its courses it provides for apprentices requires improvement, and some students are at “risk of not achieving”.

Ofsted said in its latest report published on July 22 that apprentices’ experience is too variable and dependent on the programme for which they are training.

It says too many healthcare assistant apprentices struggle to keep up with the workload while too few chartered surveyor apprentices successfully complete their apprenticeship programme.

It adds that the planning of apprenticeship programmes is poor on a “minority” of programmes – blaming the university for not considering the need for chartered surveyor apprentices to provide client advice.

As a result, these apprentices do not have the opportunity in their job role to gather this evidence for their final assessment.

Ofsted says that university apprentice leaders do not always consider the study requirements of the professional body when planning – as a result registered nurse apprentices report having to work above their contracted employment hours in order to complete the theoretical learning hours required by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The university, based in Chelmsford, has approximately 2,087 apprentices studying 22 different standard-based apprenticeship programmes from level 4 to level 7 for the healthcare, construction, digital and business management sectors.

The two largest cohorts of apprentices are on the level 6 registered nurse degree and the level 5 healthcare assistant practitioner.

Crucially the university was criticised for not ensuring that apprentices are able to reach the end of their programme within the planned timescales.

Additionally, too many apprentices take breaks in their learning, withdraw from their programme or face other barriers to achieving in time. A total of 96 apprentices are on a break in their learning.

It says most apprentices who reach the end of their programme achieve their degree qualifications and apprentices who reach their final assessment pass them.

Many of these apprentices achieve higher grades. However, the proportion who achieve the apprenticeship overall remains low.

The Ofsted report adds : “Senior leaders and those responsible for governance do not have a robust central oversight of the progress apprentices are making. Managers have different systems for recording aspects of apprentices’ progress, such as completion of assignments.

“However, leaders and managers do not track the overall progress that apprentices make for all elements of their programme. Consequently, leaders and managers do not have a secure grasp on apprentices who are at risk of not achieving.”

A spokesman for ARU said: “ARU’s apprenticeship programmes play a key role in addressing skills shortages, supporting local economies and transforming the lives of the students.

“The qualifications that our students go on to achieve are as important and valued as ever.

“We were encouraged to see Ofsted’s report highlight our good practices in many areas, and we will make sure that these are implemented across all of our apprenticeship courses.

“We have already put in place measures to address specific points raised in this report, and we look forward to demonstrating our progress.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter