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TSC: inspection of work-based training has powerful influence on standards


Inspection of training is a vital tool in maintaining and improving standards in work-based learning, according to the second annual report of the Chief Inspector of the Training Standards Council, the government-funded inspectorate for work-based training in England.

The report, which was announced yesterday and was based on 340 new inspections of TEC-funded training, produced a number of disappointing findings as well as some signs of improvement.

Every aspect of the work of 17 providers was judged to be good or outstanding. However, at least 80 per cent of the grades awarded to 22 providers were unsatisfactory or poor. and in most occupational areas, the grades awarded this year were lower than those of last year.

Among the key findings:

  • Confusion surrounds training in key skills - very few staff are qualified to train in key skills or assess them
  • Many FE colleges do not understand that the needs of work-based trainees and New Deal clients differ markedly from those of their students
  • Initial assessment is rarely carried out well - often no attempt is made to take into account the learning and skills that have been achieved before starting on a training programme, and as a consequence, trainees take the wrong programmes, take longer than they need to achieve and go out into work with problems of numeracy and literacy unresolved
  • Nearly 25 per cent of all training providers have no procedures for accrediting prior learning or experience, and few trainees have individualised training plans
  • There is too little work-based assessment taking place for NVQs, and often assessors are too inexperienced in their field of work to assess competently
  • There are also problems with verification - external verification is often carried out too rarely to make sensible judgements about standards and in 55 per cent of providers inspected this year internal verification was inadequate

More positively, the highest standards of occupational training are found in specialist providers, and training on good specialist equipment is a defining strength of work-based learning. As many as 85 per cent of providers of training who were reinspected because of unsatisfactory grades last year were at least satisfactory by the time of reinspection.

Where the operational practices of an industry have strong similarities with the procedures of an NVQ, for example, in airlines or dental nursing, training was often found to be outstanding. Employers training their own staff achieve the highest standards of provision.

Introducing the report, David Sherlock, TSC chief inspector said that “Given plain speaking about what has to be done, nobody is better at improving fast than training providers...they face up to weaknesses quickly, take their staff and trainees with them and use the powerful quality assurance techniques of modern business.” He added that providers and funding bodies must work effectively together - using annual self-assessment, action planning and regular monitoring of progress – to fulfil the aim of continuous improvement.

Commenting on the report yesterday, Lifelong Learning Minister Malcolm Wicks said there was still too much which was unsatisfactory: "This Government inherited an inspection system in post-16 education and training which lacked coherence and there has not been the rapid progress on raising standards that we desire.....there are some examples of outstanding providers, but there is still too much that is unsatisfactory, and a persistent residual element where training is poor."

Referring to the new Adult Learning Inspectorate, which will be formed next year from the Training Standards Council and part of the inspectorate of the Further Education Funding Council to cover all post-19 learning (apart from Higher Education), Wicks said that "these new arrangements will tackle the legacy of underachievement we have inherited. We will not hesitate to act to secure better quality in learning. As we have shown in schools, the needs of the learner come first and we shall act without fear or favour when it is necessary to raise standards."

Over a four-year period, the TSC inspects every organisation in the country that receives government funding for training. Occupational areas inspected for this report included customer service, construction, travel, public services and manufacturing.


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