GP0|#dcac3722-8b64-46fe-a211-4cb5d2b99d62;L0|#0dcac3722-8b64-46fe-a211-4cb5d2b99d62|About inspections and reviews;GTSet|#be6d6ed0-609d-4723-b17a-bc81cbe67c93;GPP|#188671b5-c91e-4579-ab40-31baa90e9d45;GPP|#0c1043f2-edf4-4207-b4ee-57073d324c98;GPP|#5ea2f055-709a-49aa-816c-bc466c16e12f

 Catalog-Item Reuse

Modern Apprenticeship reviews
  1. Introduction
  2. External review methodology
  3. The National Quality System
  4. Grades and grade illustrations

1. Introduction

​The review of off-the-job training in Modern Apprenticeships

An enthusiastic and trained workforce underpins Scotland's ambition for economic success. Modern Apprenticeships are designed to support this goal by providing individuals with the opportunity to secure industry-recognised qualifications while earning a wage. A Modern Apprentice (MA) may be a new or an existing employee seeking to increase their capability. As such, apprentices should receive training to match business needs.

Modern Apprenticeships are available across a wide range of sectors. The MA frameworks are developed by licensed Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) and other Sector Skills Organisations (SSOs), recognised by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).

This quality framework provides a structure for external review of Modern Apprenticeship off-the-job and on-the-job training.

PDF file: External quality arrangements for the review of Modern Apprenticeship Off-the-Job and On-the-job training (508 KB)

Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce

To help maintain momentum in developing the trade and vocational skill base for the Scottish economy, in January 2013 the Scottish Government established a Commission to consider ways to help young people gain improved access to employment and training opportunities. The commission was led by Sir Ian Wood and had the working title Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce. It considered:

  • how a high quality intermediate vocational education and training system could be developed to enhance sustainable economic growth with a skilled workforce
  • how to achieve better connectivity and cooperation between education and the world of work to ensure young people at all levels of education understand the expectations of employers, and that employers are properly engaged
  • how to achieve a culture of real partnership between employers and education, where employers view themselves as co-investors and co-designers rather than simply customers

To address these challenges, the Commission’s task was to deliver recommendations to ensure Scotland makes good progress in producing better qualified, work-ready and motivated young people, with skills relevant to modern employment opportunities. The Commission’s report 'Education Working for All!' made 39 recommendations and was published in June 2014.

Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy

To support and implement the recommendations of 'Education Working for All!', the Scottish Government published 'Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy'.

Within this publication, Education Scotland was commissioned by the Scottish Government to undertake an external review of the off-the-job training element of MA programmes. Education Scotland will undertake reviews of off-the-job training within each of the industry sectors over the coming years.

The strategic vision outlined by the Scottish Government in Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy is for a post-16 education and training sector in which:

  • all provision, regardless of provider, is focused on providing young people with the skills, knowledge and attributes necessary to support Scotland’s economic growth and maximise their life chances
  • all providers and their key stakeholders work together regionally and nationally to ensure high quality provision that meets the needs of learners and employers
  • the relevance and quality of this provision, the extent to which it supports economic growth and post-16 reform, and the outcomes learners achieve are evaluated through an appropriate blend of self-evaluation, external scrutiny and public reporting through a national quality assurance and quality improvement system.

2. External review methodology

​The external review of MAs by Education Scotland builds upon and complements Skills Development Scotland’s (SDS) current quality assurance arrangements. These arrangements require all non-college training providers to demonstrate they are meeting SDS quality standards as set out in the SDS Quality Assurance Framework. SDS takes assurance of delivery within colleges from Education Scotland’s college inspections. The external review arrangements encompass off-the-job training approaches within MA programmes and focus solely on the contribution made by training providers and the quality of the training they deliver. The review team evaluated the work undertaken by a sample of colleges and independent training providers.

A team of Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI) from Education Scotland, and Associate Assessors (AA) from SDS, colleges and independent training providers, conduct external reviews. Associate Assessor input ensures that each review team has the expert knowledge and industry-related experience to ensure a full and well-informed review process.

External review approaches incorporate:

  • observation of training activities
  • discussions held with provider managers and staff
  • discussions held with employers and apprentices

Upon conclusion of the external review, a short written report is provided to each training centre by Education Scotland. This includes the grades awarded for each of the six high-level questions posed during the review. This report is not published, but is shared with SDS, although centres can choose to publish their individual reports after the main report is published. The findings from each of the visits are brought together to generate a national report which is published by Education Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government.

These national reports are designed to inform Ministers on the quality of the off-the-job training element within specific MA programmes. The report will also assist providers in preparing and implementing their quality improvement and enhancement agendas and identify examples of excellent practice.

3. The National Quality System

​The framework and model for the external review are based upon the quality elements from the National Quality System, designed by Education Scotland, in collaboration with partners such as the SQA, SDS, Scottish Government and industry partners.

The national report has a grade for each of the questions within the high level principles. The four high level principles are:

  • Outcomes and Impact
  • Delivery of Training
  • Leadership and Quality Culture
  • Capacity for Improvement

Grades are awarded for the following six questions in the four high level principles:

  1. Outcome and Impact
    • How well are apprentices progressing and achieving relevant high quality outcomes?
    • How well do we meet the needs of our apprentices, employers and stakeholders?
  2. Delivery of Training
    • How good is our delivery of training
    • How good is our management of training delivery?
  3. Leadership and Quality Culture
    • How good is our strategic leadership?
  4. Capacity to Improve
    • A capacity to improve judgment based on evidence from all key areas above, in particular Outcomes, Impact and Leadership.

4. Grades and grade illustrations


The grades which will be awarded to each of the elements are:

  • EXCELLENT – Outstanding and sector leading
  • VERY GOOD – Major strengths
  • GOOD – Important strengths with some areas for improvement
  • SATISFACTORY - Strengths just outweigh weaknesses
  • WEAK – Important weaknesses
  • UNSATISFACTORY – Major weaknesses

Grade illustrations

  • An evaluation of excellent applies to provision in which apprentices’ experiences and achievements are of a very high quality. An evaluation of excellent represents an outstanding standard of provision which exemplifies very best practice and is worth disseminating beyond the current provision. It implies that very high levels of performance are sustainable and will be maintained.

  • An evaluation of very good applies to provision characterised by major strengths. There are very few areas for development and any that do exist do not significantly diminish apprentices’ experiences. While an evaluation of very good represents a high standard of provision, it is a standard that should be achievable by all. It implies that it is fully appropriate to continue to make provision without significant adjustment. However, there is an expectation that the centre will take opportunities to improve and strive to raise performance to excellent.

  • An evaluation of good applies to provision characterised by important strengths which, taken together, clearly outweigh any areas for development. An evaluation of good represents a standard of provision in which the strengths have a significant positive impact on apprentices. However, the quality of apprentices’ experiences is diminished in some way by aspects in which development is required. It implies that the centre should seek to improve further the areas of important strengths, but take action to address the areas for development.

  • An evaluation of satisfactory applies to provision characterised by strengths which just outweigh areas for development. An evaluation of satisfactory indicates that apprentices have access to a basic level of provision. It represents a standard where the strengths have a positive impact on apprentices’ experiences. However, while the areas for development will not be important enough to have a substantially adverse impact, they do constrain the overall quality of apprentices’ experiences. It implies that the centre should take action to address areas for further development while building on its strengths.

  • An evaluation of weak applies to provision which has some strengths, but where there are important areas for development. In general, an evaluation of weak may be arrived at in a number of circumstances. While there may be some strengths, the important areas for development will, either individually or collectively, be sufficient to diminish apprentices’ experiences in substantial ways. It implies the need for prompt, structured and planned action on the part of the centre. Where a grading of weak is given, it will lead to follow-up activity from SDS compliance managers.

  • An evaluation of unsatisfactory applies when there are major areas for development in provision requiring immediate remedial action. Apprentices’ experiences are at risk in significant respects. In almost all cases, staff responsible for provision evaluated as unsatisfactory will require support from senior managers in planning and carrying out the necessary actions to effect improvement. This may involve working alongside other staff or agencies in or beyond the immediate support given by the centre. Where a grading of weak is given, it will lead to a follow-up review by staff from SDS and Education Scotland within a year.

Related links

Modern Apprenticeship reports - Reviews of Modern Apprenticeships across a range of sectors.

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