Letter to the Chairman from Christine Gilbert CBE, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, Ofsted
I refer to the Select Committee meeting on 14 May 2008 and your questions about apprenticeships. As promised, I now provide more detail.
I can confirm that all apprenticeships are designed to lead towards a qualification.
As you will be aware, an apprenticeship is work-based training designed to help young employees reach a level of competency and performance to perform their jobs. There are over 200 different apprenticeships available across over 80 industries in areas such as hairdressing, construction, veterinary nursing and management. Apprenticeships are completed in work in companies and organisations of all sizes, to train their employees, help tackle skills shortages and improve their business performance. People of all ages and backgrounds are choosing apprenticeships as the path to a successful future, with more than 240,000 apprentices choosing to 'learn while they earn' in England alone. More than 130,000 employers are also reaping the benefits that apprenticeships can bring - as a means for getting the workforce needed to succeed now and in the future. The latest percentages for 2006/07 from the Learning and Skills Council show that the national overall success rate for all advanced apprenticeship programmes (level 3) is 58%, and for all apprentices (level 2), it is 61%.
However, while an apprenticeship is designed to lead towards a qualification, success rates indicate that there is still some way to go before all apprentices actually achieve one.
An apprenticeship or advanced apprenticeship will vary in the format of the qualifications that it leads to. Still, the apprenticeship is likely to always comprise:
n A National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) at level 2 for an apprenticeship, and level 3 for an advanced apprenticeship. An NVQ at level 2 is equivalent to five GCSEs at grades A-C, and an NVQ at level 3 is equivalent to two A levels/one vocational A level. Many advanced apprentices use their qualification as a stepping stone to higher education. An NVQ is achieved through the tasks apprentices do in the workplace, and is evidence of their ability and practical skills.
n A technical certificate such as a BTEC National Diploma or a City & Guilds Progression Award is included in most apprenticeships. The term "technical certificate" is applied to a knowledge based vocationally related qualification (VRQ) which provides much of the knowledge and understanding required by the NVQ contained in the apprenticeship programmes. The qualification is obtained through off-the-job training. The specific course content of an apprenticeship will cover a significant amount of the knowledge and understanding required by the NVQ and needed for the job. The qualification must be separately certificated and must contain an element of external assessment. Technical certificates are designed to improve an apprentice's knowledge and understanding of specific topics that relate to their trade. Technical Certificates are qualifications that assess specific occupational knowledge and understanding within the apprenticeship framework and are accredited by QCA.
n Key Skills are the essential skills that everyone needs to succeed in education and training, in work and in life in general. There are six key skills: communication; application of number; information technology, improving own learning, working with others and problem solving. They are all available as qualifications at levels 1 to 4 of the National Qualifications Framework. This means that Level 1 is broadly the same level as GCSE grade D to G or NVQ Level 1, Level 2 approximates to the level of GCSE A* to C or NVQ Level 2 and Level 3 is about the same level as AS, A level or NVQ Level 3. Key skills are assessed through a portfolio of work (which is assessed internally by a school, college or training provider) and in some cases by an external test (which is marked by an awarding body). The key skills and the assessment system are the same whether an individual is at school, college, in employment (perhaps doing an apprenticeship) or studying independently.
n Practical experience, skills and knowledge from working in the chosen type of employment (on-the-job training).
n Any extra qualifications or requirements that are important for the chosen occupation. For example, a provider of apprenticeships in electrical engineering could support all its learners to complete additional courses and training in scaffolding, jointing, pole top rescue, and manual handling. Where we have seen this, learners valued these opportunities and recognised their relevance to their careers. We have also seen cases where hairdressing apprentices all completed certificated training in equality and diversity issues.
Let me illustrate with reference to the Health & Social Care sector where apprenticeships figure very strongly. Care apprentices would probably start as a care assistant, possibly in a residential home or in a day care centre, but they cannot undertake personal care with patients until the age of 18. Qualifications would include an NVQ in Health and Social Care; Technical Certificate in Health and Social care, and 2 key skills in Application of Number and in Communication. The level 2 apprenticeship generally takes a minimum of 12 months, and the level 3 about 24 months to complete.
I hope this provides you with sufficient detail. Please do not hesitate to ask for more clarification.
Further letter to the Chairman from Christine Gilbert CBE, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, Ofsted
At the Select Committee hearing on 14 May 2008, you asked where Ofsted had gathered evidence of teaching to the test and whether we had published this in our reports. I have summarised below some key excerpts from the past year.
The Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector 2006/07
As the Committee is aware, my Annual Report is Ofsted's most important publication. Ofsted used the report to highlight this issue. The report stated that:
Where teaching is ineffective, a focus on gaining purely factual knowledge leaves too little time for pupils to apply what they have learned, to carry out research and to develop as creative and independent learners. This inadequate teaching fails to achieve a suitable balance between the necessary acquisition of knowledge and the development of understanding. As a result, the pupils' understanding of what they have learned, as opposed to their ability to recall basic facts, is often superficial. In mathematics, for example, an ability to describe the rules is not always accompanied by an understanding of the underlying mathematical principles. When pupils do not have the opportunity to engage in relevant, practical enquiry in science, they may lose interest and give up the subject at the first opportunity. In history, the study of relatively few topics in depth means that pupils fail to develop an overview of the past, a sense of chronology and an awareness of the historical context in which events happened. (page 32)
The Annual Report 2006/07 also reported similar issues arise with older learners, commenting that learning for skills for life training offered by colleges, learndirect and other providers was often too narrowly focused on simply passing a test, rather than on the value of the learning process.
The Annual Report drew on evidence from our school inspections and survey reports between September 2006 to August 2007. I also include some references to teaching to the test and the narrowing of the curriculum in our survey reports from April 2007.
Poetry in schools: A survey of practice, 2006/07
Ofsted referred to teaching in the test in our report Poetry in schools: A survey of practice, 2006/07 (December 2007). This report found that the end-of-key-stage national tests and examinations have had a significant impact on poetry in schools. It reported that:
n poetry featured less in the English curriculum in Years 6 and 9 in the schools visited because too many teachers focused on preparing pupils for the tests
§ in some secondary schools teachers felt constrained by national tests and examinations and that this was having a negative impact on many pupils' response in lessons
§ some Key Stage 4 pupils considered the study of poetry at GCSE level to be dull and pointless, but this view was largely formed by the didactic approaches used by some teachers to prepare pupils for examinations
n the only area where poetry appears to be enjoyed and where creative writing takes place is in Years 7 and 8. Despite the outstanding results in GCSE English literature, provision for poetry is satisfactory rather than good because of the focus on teaching to the tests and examinations. This focus has meant a sacrifice of real enjoyment and of writing poetry creatively.
The Key Stage 4 curriculum: Increased flexibility and work-related learning
Ofsted reported in The Key Stage 4 curriculum: Increased flexibility and work-related learning (070113, May 2007) that across the two years of the survey, curriculum development in a small minority of the schools visited was constrained by a perception that change would not maximise success in public examinations. These schools offered a narrow curriculum with little or no access to vocational qualifications. The report found that in some schools, elements of the statutory curriculum were not offered to all or the curriculum was narrow so that, although students might achieve well in their examinations, the breadth of their learning was limited. For example, some schools did not offer the full programme of study for ICT, or the opportunity to study another language to all; in some work-related learning was limited.
Geography in schools: changing practice (January 2008)
This reported that achievement in Year 6 is often very limited and pupils in many schools study little geography until the statutory tests have finished.
Ofsted is currently working on its triennial mathematics report. The evidence suggests strongly that strategies to improve test and examination performance, including 'booster' lessons, revision classes and extensive intervention, succeed in preparing pupils to gain the qualifications but are not equipping them well enough mathematically for their futures. This will build on the findings in Ofsted's earlier report, Evaluating mathematics provision for 14 - 19 year olds (HMI 2611) published in May 2006. This reported that factors which acted against effective achievement, motivation and participation included:
A narrow focus on meeting examination requirements by 'teaching to the test', so that although students are able to pass the examinations they are not able to apply their knowledge independently to new contexts and they are not well prepared for further study.
I hope these excerpts address your query. Please be in touch if you have any further enquiries.
Letter to Annette Brooke MP from Christine Gilbert CBE, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, Ofsted
I refer to the Select Committee meeting on 14 May 2008, when you asked how common it was for a school to achieve a good grading when the test results are judged as satisfactory. I am now able to respond in some detail.
There were 6,323 section 5 inspections carried out between 1 September 2007 and 31 May 2008. Of these, the total number of schools graded satisfactory (3) for 'The standards reached by learners' was 2,843 (39%). The 'overall effectiveness' grade for these was:
As can be seen from the table, just over half of the schools received the same grades for overall effectiveness as they did for standards. Just over 40% received a judgement on overall effectiveness that was higher than the grade for standards. A small proportion of schools, 3.5%, had satisfactory standards but was judged to be inadequate overall.
The headline grade 'how well do learners achieve' given in inspection reports takes into account both standards (comparison with a national norm) and progress (this takes into account the value added by the school, and considers a variety of contextual factors and a range of first hand evidence gathered by inspectors). In reaching this achievement judgement greater weighting is given to the progress learners make. For example, a special school that admits only learners with standards which are much lower than average, might be graded 4 (exceptionally low) for standards but 1 (outstanding) for progress because of the high quality provision it makes for learners' needs and the progress that learners make.
Contextualised value-added (CVA) data, which is published by Ofsted and available to the school, is an important part of the evidence, but inspectors will also consider:
n The school's own tracking and assessment records, showing what has happened since the last round of national tests or exams.
n Evidence from other assessment and value-added systems.
n Evidence from the school's self-evaluation.
n Interviews with school staff, which can probe the school's evidence.
n Direct observation of learners' progress in the classroom.
n Scrutiny of learners' work.
n Discussions with learners about the level of progress and challenge.
n The views of parents and carers.
In conclusion, while the standards that learners reach are a very important factor in judging a school's overall effectiveness, they are considered alongside other judgements such as the progress learners are making. The evidence quoted above clearly demonstrates that standards do not act as a 'straightjacket' on inspection judgements on overall effectiveness. When judging the overall effectiveness of a school inspectors take a range of evidence into account.
Letter to Fiona Mactaggart MP from Christine Gilbert CBE, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, Ofsted
At the Select Committee meeting on 14 May 2008, you asked about Caldicott School and I offered to provide further background on this case.
I assured you that Ofsted always considers issues of child protection when it inspects a school and I can confirm that this was the case when Caldicott School was inspected. You mentioned that Buckinghamshire Local Safeguarding Board discussed concerns about abuse that had happened in the past and the fact that the most recent Ofsted report on Caldicott School did not refer to this.
The report does in fact refer to child protection in several places. In the section headed Improvements since the last inspection inspectors wrote:
Training in child protection has occurred for all staff and a comprehensive child protection policy has been approved by the local authority. .....Risk assessments are undertaken routinely in relation to the promotion of the health and safety of the boarders.
There is also a section in the report headed Protecting children from harm or neglect and helping them stay safe, in which inspectors make a further evaluation of child protection matters. I have appended a copy of the report and have highlighted specific references to child protection.
I indicated at the Select Committee meeting that no-one would wait for an inspection if a concern had been raised. I can confirm that there was an investigation into the allegations made and that there was a subsequent inspection to set actions for the school, in order to improve its procedures. A further inspection was carried out by CSCI, which held responsibility at that time for the inspection of welfare in boarding schools, and inspectors set a series of actions for the school to complete before its next inspection. In the most recent Ofsted inspection of January 2008, inspectors investigated to make sure these actions had been completed, as demonstrated in the section of the report that I quote above.
The report does not make specific mention to events that took place in 2001, but does refer directly to matters that arose from that period and to actions set subsequently. I feel that this gives clear reassurances to those who had concerns about the school, that the school has taken action to improve, and that inspectors have made regular checks on the school to ensure it did so.
I trust that this addresses your concerns, but please be in touch if you have any further queries.
 Not printed.