The RoATP – your questions answered
At FE Week's Annual Apprenticeship Conference last week there was a lot of talk about the RoATP.
It's been a year since the new Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers was first announced, but there are still loads of questions that need to be answered.
When the RoATP was introduced, the SFA said it was designed to increase the quality of apprenticeships by 'ensuring excellence for apprenticeship provision'. Providers have to complete a rigorous application process to make the cut, so many providers and employers see the register like a Government-endorsement; a seal of approval reserved for the best of the best.
However, this is not strictly the case. Many providers who were registered on the old RoTO haven't made it onto the new list, and will have to reapply to the second round which closes next week. However, 1,473 providers are already registered - so who are these new providers?
Well, it varies. FE Week reported that several providers accepted onto the Register have never delivered apprenticeships before, have no official website and are being run out of residential properties - while many huge, established colleges have missed out.
This has sparked controversy across the sector, and was the theme of the week at the Annual Apprenticeship Conference.
The RoATP has already almost doubled the amount of providers listed – from 793 providers to 1,473 when the register goes live in May.
As the register opens its doors to new applications 4 times a year, this number is expected to rise sharply and quickly. There's no limit to the amount of providers on the register, meaning employers can register multiple companies to target different sectors and maximise their chances of being selected via the Apprenticeship Service.
This increase in registered training providers will be a huge challenge for supporting organisations across the sector. Ofsted's new boss Amanda Spielman said she's worried about the impact the register will have on her resources, as it's already nearly doubled the number of providers now in line for inspection.
In fact, 55% of RoATP main providers have never been inspected by Ofsted, and have never delivered apprenticeship training before. But how have so many companies with such little experience found their way onto the register?
This was a controversial topic at the Annual Apprenticeship Conference last week. Peter Lauener, CEO of the Skills Funding Agency, explained that the SFA included a quality category in the RoATP application process to help level the playing field. This will include a mandatory SFA-conducted training session that must be completed before any provider can start delivering apprenticeships. They wanted to encourage providers that were new to the market and didn't already have an Ofsted rating.
While this has certainly expanded the market, it's going to put huge pressure on Ofsted. The RoATP is going to grow exponentially to include companies with no experience of apprenticeship delivery or Ofsted inspections, so getting them up to scratch will be a challenge.
The SFA reported they have total faith in Ofsted's judgement, and will be looking to them to maintain the high quality provision expected in the apprenticeship revolution.
In other breaking news, the Department for Education announced yesterday that the Skills and Education Funding agencies are merging - and Peter Lauener is stepping down as the boss of both.
The merge will happen in April - just before the apprenticeship levy comes into action on April 6th. The timing of the move is questionable. With so much uncertainty across the sector and huge adminstrative changes just on the horizon, is now really the time to merge two of the biggest authorities in the further education sector?
We'll have to wait and see...
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