It was the last Monday of the month and we’d settled down for our monthly team meeting and CPD activities when the phone rang. It was ‘the’ call.

I very quickly lost my appetite for the pizza due to be delivered at lunch time, a treat during our monthly meetings, although that did return just as quickly when the pizza arrived!

The initial call was followed by a call from our Lead Inspector, emailed links to the Ofsted portal and a second follow up call, again with the Lead Inspector.

By midday on September 30th, 2019 we’d been informed of our monitoring visit, panicked, calmed down, uploaded our SAR/QIP to the portal and planned the initial inspection timetable with the inspection team.

2/3 October 2019
As the nominee I met with the inspection team on their first morning and as with previous inspections I was given 10 minutes to provide a pen picture overview of our organisation. It was during this that I first noticed the significant shift from the Common Inspection Framework (CIF) to the Education Inspection Framework (EIF), pronounced Eeeeefff here in Yorkshire.

The inspection team were more interested in our individual and collective experiences and values than our corporate structure and data.

Day one was very much about speaking to apprentices with inspectors clearly looking for the impact that the course was having on the candidate and how they applied their new knowledge, skills and behaviours in the workplace. The lead inspector remained on site looking through policies and processes and probing our Safeguarding effectiveness.
I had been in touch with our teachers, apprentices and employer partners throughout the day and by the time I headed for our day one feedback meeting I was feeling pretty relaxed.

This was short lived!

Rule number one. They (Inspectors) may be personable, chat easily, often laughing and making you feel relaxed, but they are inspectors and they are doing a job! I’ve only been through a gazillion of these so forgetting rule number one is surely acceptable!!!

After our day one feedback I was left considering how a Sainsbury’s uniform would complement my skin tone!!
This feeling was short lived, we needed to re-think our strategy. Inspectors were finding it difficult to speak to candidates on the phone as they can’t have their mobiles in the workplace, and those face to face meetings with apprentices weren’t bearing the fruit I’d expected leaving me baffled as I knew that our teaching and assessment was of a good standard.

We re-grouped for day two with a clear plan to show the inspectors that we did positively impact on our apprentices work and lives.

We arranged with apprentices’ bosses to have them away from their work area and available for a call at a pre-arranged time. This worked.

We sent some of our team out to workplaces arranging to have apprentices lined up to speak with inspectors. That worked. We helped inspectors triangulate the impact evidence they were looking for, looking through portfolios, reviews, ILP’s initial assessment and induction records. Arranging calls with Production Managers and HR directors as well as the apprentices, to reiterate the improvements being made by apprentices in their workplaces. That worked.

Importantly we were able to help the inspectors ask apprentices questions in a way that they would understand, and they were happy to understand and use our company terms and language when speaking with apprentices.

One apprentice whose initial response was “it’s alright” suddenly found her voice when she understood what inspectors were asking explaining that she had previously been a single production line operative and was now after a few months already skilled in multiple production line processes and was often called upon to supervise new people.

Two days isn’t long when providing proof of delivery whilst trying to showcase success and it takes hard work, tenacity and a fair bit of innovative cheek to make sure the inspection team see who you are. Although I’m probably teaching you how to suck eggs now!

The biggest change from CIF to EIF is inspectors looking for the impact learning has on the apprentice. Yes, they want to see policy and process and they are just as focused on Safeguarding, Prevent and British Values as in previous inspections, but data in the monitoring visit, was limited to the information they extracted from our digital account. How many starts, leavers, achievers?

In summary, when preparing for your monitoring visit make sure that both you and your apprentices know why they’re on programme. What is their goal, and how are you helping them achieve that – Impact!

Do your apprentices understand the journey they’re on, from recruitment, through induction, on and off the job learning and EPA?

Inspectors did ask apprentices about their time off the job, and the regularity of this but strangely this wasn’t probed in any detail beyond positive confirmation of it taking place, with no mention of the 20% OTJ requirement, although this may be due to the constraints of a short monitoring visit and the impact of learning was demonstrated to the inspectors satisfaction.

Are they positively progressing and recognising the benefits of their programme? – Impact.

Are they achieving, or on target to achieve? Impact.

Do you have the documented evidence to support all the above?

Help the inspection team understand your values, the language you use when speaking to apprentices and importantly, that you and your teams fully understand your own organisation. If you don’t tell them no one will!

Be tenacious in your bid to shine a spotlight on all your good stuff and be open and honest about the not so good stuff. We all have stuff we’re dealing with and it’s only an issue if you try to hide it, or worse, don’t know about it, and remember it’s pronounced Eeeeefff.

Good luck with your next inspection


Cheers

Noel

Noel Johnson

Managing Director,

Springfield Training LTD

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