The RoATP: one year on
Out of all last year's apprenticeship reforms, the RoATP was probably the most controversial.
When the RoATP (Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers) was first introduced, it seemed like a natural upgrade from the old RoTO. New world, new register – it made sense. But as soon as people started to look at the small print and saw how the application process actually worked, the controversy began.
The first issue was with the complex application process. Providers could apply via 1 of 3 routes – as a main provider, an employer provider or as a supporting provider. The different routes were supposed to help regulate the process, but many people found the whole thing confusing. This wasn't helped by the complex application process which involved creating accounts with the ICO, Bravo and the UKRLP.
This didn't cause too much controversy – but when the first round of successful applicants kicked in, it all started to kick off. Many long-standing colleges and training providers – such as Hartlepool College and all 4 of the FE colleges in Birmingham – didn't make it onto the register. This shocked the sector and raised concerns about the RoATP application as a whole.
Since the last round of applicants was published in January 2018, 13 organisations have been unexpectedly added to the list. They underwent a series of appeals after being rejected but have now been successful – bringing the total number of organisations on the register to 2,588. 11 of these new organisations are main providers, 1 is an employer-provider (the sofa giant DFS) and another is a supporting provider – and they're in scope for an Ofsted inspection.
The RoATP has put huge pressure on Ofsted from the very beginning. In the first round alone, the RoATP almost doubled the amount of registered training providers in the UK from 793 to 1,473 – and 55% of these providers were brand new to delivery and had never been inspected by Ofsted before. This increased the inexperience in the sector and put a huge strain on Ofsted – which brings us to our next controversy: Ofsted-gate.
The RoATP didn't include any Ofsted-style quality assurance questions. Instead, the ESFA built their own quality process into the application, which created a rift between the 2 organisations. The ESFA said they wanted to move away from Ofsted to level the playing field and encourage new providers to enter the market – and it certainly did that. The Register received an influx of new applicants, and Ofsted's boss, Amanda Spielman, said she was worried about the impact the register would have on her resources.
The next issue was not with the sheer number of new providers, but with the providers themselves. There's no upper limit to the register, so many providers registered multiple times under different names to target different sectors and maximise their chances of being selected via the Apprenticeship Service.
All this caused a whole lot of scandal after the first round of applicants, and not that much changed after the second or third rounds either. At the end of 2017, the ESFA finally said they would be reviewing the RoATP process, but we’re still waiting to see what'll be changed.
So almost one year on, what do people think about the RoATP?
People still have a love-hate relationship with the RoATP. But it's not surprising really, the RoATP rocked the boat in a big way: it's tripled the number of eligible providers in the UK and pushed Ofsted to its limit – but also increased diversity in the sector and offers employers more choice.
The controversy surrounding RoATP could cloud your judgement – you need to know the facts. We've found out the stats and looked at the pros and cons to help you make up your mind about the RoATP.