In the hours before the Ofsted inspection, butterflies start to use their wings; they flutter and metamorphose into a series of questions in my mind. How have we progressed? Are we adding the value that our customers and clients demand, and deserve? Are we accountable?
Ofsted inspections are intensive affairs, they must be, they provide a critical marque, a measure of the quality of apprenticeship training that is delivered by training providers to ensure it is high-quality and meets the needs of employers and apprentices. This helps to ensure apprentices learn, develop, and make progress as they should. It also helps providers to continuously improve and provides accountability for the public money used to fund apprenticeships.
The flutter settles and dissipates into a focused and intense process of review as the day of the inspection arrives, that covers:
Then there is a sense of pride in the achievement of the team at Alpha and that Ofsted are “happy with the high-quality training from Alpha’s staff,” acknowledged by our recent Ofsted inspection, graded overall as ‘Good.’
During a full inspection Ofsted will “deep dive” into one specific area. For Alpha Development this area was our Data Analysis provision, as one of our largest subject areas the inspectors were keen to find out how we were delivering this. The inspectors were happy with how we were sequencing the syllabus to build on knowledge from one lesson to the next. Apprenticeships are very much about applying what you learn to the workplace. They reported that “apprentices learn new tools to help show benefits and drawbacks when looking at the feasibility of projects” and that “apprentices gain confidence using technical language”. We were pleased that they could see how apprentices “apply helpful, industry-based models to workplace projects”.
The core of Alpha’s philosophy has always been to work in partnership and collaboration with our clients. Our apprenticeship provision is no different. We work with the learning and development teams of our clients to embed organisation specific language and references into our learning materials. We also signpost their internal resources to complement our training and help apprentices understand how what we are teaching is applied in their organisation. Ofsted commented that Alpha “design the curriculum in close partnership with employers” and that we “include bespoke content at the request of employers”.
When the pandemic hit, in March 2020 we quickly moved our delivery model to being virtual. Recognising that we would need to make some changes to ensure the workshops continued to be engaging and interesting we put all our faculty through a “train the virtual trainer” programme. As a result, we have not seen any reduction in the quality of our delivery. It is good that the Ofsted reports confirm that this is the case. Although we have seen some move back to face-to-face delivery, some employers have stayed with the virtual delivery model as this has enabled them to deliver country wide programmes for colleagues from various locations, rather than being limited to those that work in the same office.
 Ofsted Inspection and ESFA intervention – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)