Ofsted has clobbered BPP University in a report on its apprenticeship scheme which may result in the legal education provider being barred from accepting further candidates,
BPP currently has around 350 teenagers and 900 adults on apprenticeship programmes funded by the government's apprenticeship levy. But a monitoring visit conducted by Ofsted inspectors in September found that BPP had made "insufficient progress" meeting the requirements of the programme and provding sufficiently high quality training.
BPP managers "do not have access to timely, accurate or reliable data on apprentices’ progress", said Ofted. They were "too reliant" on employer's assessments, which "at times misrepresents the slow progress that apprentices make". Managers "are therefore unable to hold assessors to account fully," found inspectors, "or to ensure that assessors support apprentices to achieve in the expected timescale".
The report describes how BPP managers had not ensured that all employers provided sufficient off-the-job study time to apprentices, and that while BPP managers "attempt to make clear to employers the importance of this off-the-job component", a minority of apprentices employed by several companies "found it difficult to identify time to be released from work commitments". Which is surely an appropriate introduction to the realities of working life.
Inspectors also found that "too many" apprentices were making slow progress on their apprenticeship programme. A "significant minority" of apprentices had not submitted assignments in time, or failed to resubmit work that was found to be inadequate. Apprentices "are also slow to develop the range of skills and behaviours that form part of the apprenticeship", said Ofsted, and assessors "are too slow to intervene when apprentices start to fall behind". Assessors’ feedback on apprentice's written assignments was deemed "too superficial".
The report did find plenty of positives in BPP's handling of the scheme, however. It was praised for forging strong links with high-profile employers where apprentices could be placed, and for its overall governance of the scheme. BPP's classroom sessions were also lauded, as was its support of apprentices, including one with a hearing impediment who was given technology to allow them to participate in lessons.
Nonetheless, the findings mean BPP may be barred from recruit more apprentices. According to apprenticeship site FE Week, 16 other apprenticeship providers have been found to have made ‘insufficient progress’, and all have been banned until their next full inspection.
Tim Stewart, Vice-Chancellor of BPP University, said “The report on the whole identifies many positives in BPP’s apprenticeship provision although naturally, we are disappointed that Ofsted had some critical observations, which relate largely to systems that track the progress of apprentices and the need for consistency in how we track across the Schools. In fact, in the Law School, we have robust tracking measures in place and we are now in the process of implementing a similar system across the University as a whole but unfortunately, inspectors were not able to judge our new system in its entirety. We are confident that when it is fully operational it will address Ofsted’s concerns and we look forward to the full inspection in the near future."
He said that 91% of its 135 paralegal apprentices were currently on course for successful completion, "and the remaining 9% have personalised plans in place to support their getting back on track". This "is considerably above the average completion rate in the apprenticeship sector", said Stewart.