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Initial Reaction to the Minister’s QAR letter to the sector

What are the key messages in Rob Halfon’s letter to the sector published this morning at the same time as QAR outcomes for FY22/23 came out? Let us unpick this and consider some of the signalling here – also noting two important announcements about widening the scope of access to the APAR and changes to the Apprenticeship Service which could be easily missed:

  • IfATE to “improve or remove” apprenticeship standards which are “not producing good outcomes” … this does not mean standards that are below 67% are all under threat. Expect this to focus on programmes with particularly low levels of engagement and very low levels of completion, predominantly because of employer behaviour or the types of job roles these standards link to.
  • Quality of Training - QAR is improving, which is positive, but still the aggregated position on the national QAR is well below the 67% ambition. AELP believes that the QAR is not fit for the purpose for apprenticeship standards and needs reforming, but let’s park that one for today. DfE is now clearly moving to a business-as-usual and more interventionalist phase on the Apprenticeship Accountability Framework (AAF). Positively DfE say they will continue to “consider factors outside of providers’ control” where these can be evidenced. But for where ongoing underperformance is taking place the DfE will use contractual measures “including potential limitations on growth, stopping delivery of standards with low apprenticeship achievement rates and removal from the market where this is necessary”. To be clear “underperformance” isn’t a proxy statement for all those providers delivering at less than 67%.
  • Changes to the APAR – moving forward the DfE say they plan to seek to “enrich the market by making it easier to enter for providers that can deliver to our priorities” - for example, to invite in new providers who will “increase participation from SMEs and young people”.
  • Employer Improvement - a commitment to give “better access to information and data to help employers manage their own apprenticeship programme and benchmark against others to help drive up improvements across the programme” – again more signs we are seeing a degree of employer accountability starting to gently creep in which is a good thing. Be interesting to see where this approach ends up.
  • End Point Assessment – as part of a refinement of EPA good to see some principles that AELP has been advocating that ensuring EPA is “proportionate, supports achievement and is fit for the future,” but at the same time “retains its validity and value to employers and apprentices”.
  • Changes to SME Onboarding and Changes to the Apprenticeship Service - as a result of the expert provider pilot the DfE is fast-tracking a “new simple one-step approval for SMEs engaging with apprenticeships for the first time” - this new flexibility will be available “later this year”.

Initial Reaction to the Minister’s QAR letter to the sector

Simon Ashworth | Director of Policy, AELP

Last published: 21/03/2024