MPs want penalties for schools that flout the ‘Baker Clause’

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
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The Education Select Committee warns that some schools are still not opening their doors to allow colleges to talk to their students about Apprenticeships, despite a requirement to do so. Pete Henshaw reports

Schools that flout the Baker Clause and refuse to allow college and training providers to speak to their students about Apprenticeships should be penalised, a group of cross-party MPs have said.

A report, published on Monday (October 8) following an inquiry by MPs on Parliament’s Education Select Committee, says there is “no doubt” that Apprenticeships work, but despite reforms by successive government’s “too many apprentices are simply not getting the high-quality training they deserve”. It calls for “stronger and clearer” oversight of Apprenticeship training and assessment.

Furthermore, the MPs conclude that not enough support is being given to help disadvantaged young people to pursue an Apprenticeship and “get on in life”.

The Baker Clause

The Baker Clause is contained within the Technical and Further Education Act 2017 and requires schools to allow colleges and training providers to talk to their pupils about Apprenticeships and technical education.

However, the MPs’ investigation found that many schools are “flouting their obligations”. One piece of research quoted in the report found that only two of 10 large multi-academy trusts investigated were fully compliant.

MPs call on the government to “get tough” on schools that evade the Baker Clause. They want to see Ofsted and the Department for Education (DfE) doing more to enforce the Baker Clause and to introduce penalties for schools that do not comply.

The report states: “The (education) minister has emphasised the clause’s importance on several occasions, and we welcome this, but we are still unclear exactly how the government plans to enforce it.

“Too many students are still not receiving independent and impartial careers advice and guidance about the routes open to them, including Apprenticeships. We recommend that the government, with Ofsted’s support, properly enforces the Baker clause. In its response to this report it should set out how it plans to do this, and what penalties will be imposed on schools that flout their obligations.”

Quality control

The inquiry found that levels of satisfaction with Apprenticeship training from both employers and apprentices were “generally high”. However, around one in five Apprenticeship providers that have been inspected are rated as less than good by Ofsted.

The inquiry raises concerns about the complexity of the system of quality control for Apprenticeship education, with many different bodies involved – including the Institute for Apprenticeships (IFA) and the DfE – and concern about overlapping roles, such as between the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and Ofsted.

To offer training funded by the Apprenticeship Levy, providers must join an ESFA-managed register. Since this register opened, the number of providers has tripled and many of these have “no record of delivering Apprenticeship training”. An initial programme of short monitoring visits of these providers by Ofsted has produced “concerning results”, the report warns. However, until recently the ESFA has been ignoring Ofsted’s findings, preferring to make its own judgements.

In August, the ESFA issued new guidance stating that providers making insufficient progress would not be able to “start any new apprentices” and such providers must inform the employers of existing apprentices of the judgement. However, they remain on the register. The MPs are not satisfied with this: “While we welcome this greater clarity, we do not think it goes far enough. A provider whose only mark of distinction is a failing grade from Ofsted has no business providing government-funded training.”
They add: “The existence of a register which currently offers little guarantee of quality only serves to confuse and alienate some businesses.”

A key recommendation from the MPs is for new providers to receive a monitoring visit from Ofsted within their first year. Before this visit, the amount of training they are allowed to deliver should be capped and if they fail the inspection, they “should be out”, the report says.

The MPs also want exams watchdog Ofqual to be given a role of external quality assurance of all end-point assessments.

Subcontracting

The report also lambasts the “opaque world of subcontracting” and proposes greater controls on lead providers. Subcontracting is a “hidden market”, the MPs state, which has become a “major part” of the system.

The MPs want to see subcontractors receive the same level of attention as lead providers, with the largest subcontractors being inspected separately. We cannot simply rely on the quality assurances of lead providers, the report warns.

The report states: “Ofsted should be judging the quality of this training for itself rather than relying on quality assurance undertaken by middle men. The government needs to make sure it has the funding to do this.”

The MPs also criticise the practice of some lead providers of charged large management fees to subcontractors while “providing nothing of value themselves”. It wants to see a cap on the levels of management fees that can be charged. They also say that “lead providers should have to deliver a significant amount of their apprentices’ training”.

The MPs want Ofsted to conduct of review of subcontracted provision across the country and produce a survey report.

Social justice

The MPs want to see more done to recruit apprentices from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The report recommends a range of measures, including the creation of more bursaries, increases to the Apprenticeship minimum wage, and increased incentives for small and medium-sized businesses and social enterprises to take on young and disadvantaged apprentices.

The report also calls for stronger enforcement and more severe sanctions for employers who fail to pay the apprentice minimum wage. It also says that the Apprenticeship minimum wage is still too low, despite the recent 20p increase to £3.70 an hour. The average apprentice currently earns £6.70 an hour, but many are forced to accept much lower wages. MPs want to see the minimum wage increased for apprentices.

The report warns: “Two in five apprentices receive less in wages than it costs them to do their Apprenticeship with many being forced to drop-out or put off choosing an Apprenticeship in the first place.”

MPs recommend that the government introduces a quality mark system for good apprentice employers to “encourage best practice and help apprentices choose the best employer”.

The report also recommends the creation of a UCAS-style portal for technical education “to simplify the application process and encourage progression to further training at higher levels”.

View of the chair

Robert Halfon MP, chair of the Education Select Committee, said: “The reality today is that there is not enough high-quality Apprenticeship training, which is letting down both the apprentices and employers. There has been an explosion in the number of training providers in recent years but neither employers nor apprentices can have genuine confidence that quality training is being provided by these new entrants.

“It’s time for a cap on the amount of training which new providers can offer until they prove they are up to scratch. It’s time to get tough on sub-contractors, who too often seem to be delivering training which doesn’t deliver for the apprentice or the taxpayer, and lead providers who cream off large management fees while providing nothing of value themselves.”

On social justice, Mr Halfon added: “Apprenticeships can play a crucial role in achieving social justice. But those from disadvantaged backgrounds still find too many barriers to undertaking an Apprenticeship.

“Travel costs should be cut for young apprentices. We need to … introduce more bursaries, and a new social justice fund is necessary to support enterprises, charities and others that help the hardest to reach. Much more help needs to be given to apprentices to progress to higher and degree Apprenticeships and both the government and the IFA should make degree Apprenticeships a strategic priority.”

  • The Apprenticeships Ladder of Opportunity: Quality not quantity, Education Select Committee, October 2018: http://bit.ly/2OGe4QN


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