Top three reasons for ‘Requires improvement’ Ofsted grades for universities

Posted by Beth Anderson

Ofsted have been responsible for inspecting all apprenticeships, including those at levels 6 and 7, since April 2021. As Ofsted ramps up scrutiny of universities, even providers who received a ‘Reasonable progress outcome at their New Provider Monitoring Visit are being judged as below a ‘Good’ grade when it comes to inspection. It seems there are some commonalities as to why they are receiving a ‘Requires improvement’ judgment. 

1. Tracking Progress 

Of the universities that have received a ‘Requires improvement’ judgement, at least three were noted in their Ofsted report as tracking their learners progress poorly, including the inconsistent delivery of progress reviews. 

‘Skills coaches and lecturers do not review consistently well what apprentices know and remember so that they make the progress that they should. Too few apprentices undertake reviews with both their tutor and employer often enough.’ – Ofsted ‘Requires improvement’ Report: Jan 2022 

Why should you focus on tracking progress? 

Tracking progress is vital – not only as it affects your Ofsted outcome, but also as a way of understanding where your learners are and how many could potentially fall behind or may complete early. Ofsted will want to see how you identify these learners, what actions you take to support learners who are not making progress, and how you provide a greater level of challenge to learners who are finding their learning too easy and are ahead of their training plan.  

You can identify any possible issues of more serious situations that may be developing during progress reviews, whether this be a learner withdrawing completely or safeguarding concerns.  

Lastly, you must focus on tracking progress as this is a requirement of the apprenticeship funding rules and you may be subject to claw back at audit. The rules list everything you need to cover during a review as a minimum which includes active input from the employer. Ofsted will be looking for this too. 

2. Prior Learning

Poor assessment of apprentices prior learning or planning a curriculum that did not recognise previous knowledge and skills was another consistent red flag within ‘Requires improvement’ Ofsted reports.  

“Too few staff consider apprentices’ existing skills and knowledge when planning the curriculum. Apprentices self-assess their existing skills, knowledge and behaviours against those required by the apprenticeship standard. However, too few staff validate these self-assessments to ensure their accuracy. They do not know whether apprentices develop significant new skills and knowledge as a result.” - Ofsted ‘Requires improvement’ Report: July 2022 

Why should you focus on prior learning? 

Correct recognition of prior learning and experience is core to delivering high-quality apprenticeship programmes. You can discover what knowledge, skills and behaviours a learner already has through effective initial assessments, and use that to tailor their training plan. 

Providers should not claim funding for training that duplicates prior knowledge, skills and behaviours, therefore it’s vital to understand and correctly determine any prior learning, to ensure compliance, and avoid issues at audit. 

You can clearly monitor the progress your apprentice has made against their starting point by recognising prior learning through skills scans and initial assessments, ensuring they are developing new transferable skills and knowledge for the workplace and their future roles. This is another element that Ofsted will review. 

3. Feedback

Amongst the other commonalities listed above, feedback – or the lack of substantial, meaningful feedback, was frequently mentioned in many of the ‘Requires improvement’ Ofsted reports.  

“Where lecturers provide apprentices with written feedback, too often, the information fails to inform apprentices about what they need to do to improve and how they might extend their understanding” - Ofsted ‘Requires improvement’ Report: November 2021 

Why should you focus on feedback? 

Research shows one of the important factors in the learning process is feedback received and how learners act on that feedback. Balanced feedback is essential to ensuring your learners stay motivated, engaged, and improve over the duration of their course. 

Feedback can be both ways and can identify areas where the learner may need further support. One example is linking their off-the-job training to the workplace. Is what they’re learning relevant and helpful to their day-to-day activities? Ofsted will be looking for evidence that their learning is logically sequenced, and that knowledge gained through off-the-job training can be applied to the workplace.  

How can Tribal help? 

Tribal offers solutions to support providers with their apprenticeship delivery, from enrolment to end point assessment. Our Data Management Services team are also on hand to guide you, whether you’re new to delivering apprenticeships or just need some additional advice and support.  

Get in touch today to discuss our solutions and how we can help you. 


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