In March this year, AHPO had a full Ofsted inspection, we were graded as ‘Inadequate’, and the Department for Education terminated our apprenticeship delivery on 31st October. To date all our apprentices have passed the apprenticeship End Point Assessment on their first attempt. The Level 4 BTEC Diploma in Healthcare Science is an integral part of the apprenticeship, and external verification reports by Pearson, the BTEC Awarding Body, have been excellent. Feedback from our learners has been positive, and can be viewed on this website. So on what grounds did Ofsted deem us to be inadequate?
This is what the Ofsted report says:
- Although apprentices are successful at end-point assessment, this is due to their extensive experience prior to them starting the apprenticeship.
- Apprentices do not develop substantial new knowledge, skills and behaviours as many have worked in the sector as ophthalmic technicians for more than 5 years. The knowledge that they do acquire is not sufficient to claim public funds for an apprenticeship and is more akin to continuous professional development (CPD) activities that should be funded by their employer.
The inspectors spent three days at our headquarters; they did not visit any workplaces and based their conclusions on impromptu telephone conversations, phoning up apprentices without advanced notice. None of the apprentices had finished their training, and none had any prior ophthalmic qualifications. We could not witness the conversations between the Ofsted inspectors and apprentices and their line managers, but all those who have communicated with us disagree with the inspectors’ statements.
The level 4 apprenticeship and BTEC Diploma is equivalent to the first year of a University Bachelor of Science Degree. This level of knowledge and understanding is not, and cannot be, absorbed just by doing the job, or in the few days a year allocated for continuing professional development. For example about a third of the course is concerned with anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology, and if this, and other areas of knowledge included in the Apprenticeship, can be acquired without protected study time, then there is no need for off-the-job training, or indeed for the apprenticeship itself. Nor is there need for Trailblazer Groups of professionals and employers, and the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE) that set the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for the apprenticeship.
The inspectors had no knowledge or expertise in ophthalmic practice. For them ignorance may be bliss, but this is not the case for the ophthalmic clinical and technical staff who want to ensure patients receive high quality safe care.
AHPO will continue to deliver BTEC Diplomas to the high standards required by the awarding body, but in England, our delivery can no longer be paid from the Apprenticeship Levy.
Our response to the Ofsted decision and the Department for Education can be seen the in documents that can be downloaded below. There is feedback from apprentices and line managers on the Feedback on AHPO page.