Ofsted calls on apprenticeship scheme to improve

Retention issues have been highlighted at an apprenticeship programme at the University of Liverpool.

In its first observation since the scheme was introduced in 2019, Ofsted has highlighted improvements the university can make to improve its programme for healthcare professionals developing their skills in the workplace.

While a series of positive elements were identified, it was acknowledged that progress needs to be made to keep learners on the course.

The apprenticeship includes a mandatory master’s degree (MSc) in advanced clinical practice. Apprentices make up significantly less than 1% of the university’s student population.

The university introduced its apprenticeship provision in February 2019, located within the school of health sciences. At the time of the inspection in February, there were 111 apprentices in learning.

All apprentices study the level 7 advanced clinical practitioner (integrated degree) apprenticeship. They are employed in a variety of settings such as hospitals, general practice, individual’s homes, schools, prisons, and in the public, independent, private and charitable sectors.

The Ofsted report said while two-thirds of those who complete the course achieve high grades, some employers and apprentices feel that the curriculum has become too generic for their needs and interests.

It added, “However, too many apprentices leave the apprenticeship early. COVID-19 had a significant impact on most ACP apprentices at the time of and immediately following the pandemic, especially on those who were frontline staff. However, leaders acknowledge that retention remains too low. A few apprentices who are nurses are disappointed with the narrow range of subject-specific optional modules, particularly in relation to specialisms in clinical assessments.”

Further development is required in monitoring of apprentices’ achievements by skills coaches. The report said, “While apprentices apply what they learn in their taught lessons to their job roles generally, clinical skills coaches do not link what apprentices learn in the MSc modules to what they do at work to develop a coherent training plan.”

As a result, the overall findings said the programme requires improvement.

A University of Liverpool spokesperson said, “We accept the areas that Ofsted have listed as requiring improvement and these are being addressed by the dedicated team who already have robust, clear action plans in place to address the identified areas for development.

“We note that there are many positive aspects highlighted in the Ofsted report such as how, through teaching, apprentices are given the opportunity to engage with varied clinical practitioner roles and can apply these skills to their everyday jobs.

“We look forward to continuing to work alongside our local NHS Trusts to ensure that the course continues to be a valuable offering for health care practitioners looking to take their next steps on the career ladder.”

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