Apprenticeships latest: IfA claims it 'has worked collaboratively'

The Institute for Apprenticeships has responded to criticism that it is not listening to employers following the resignation of Busy Bees from the trailblazer group.

The leading nursery chain said its departure from the trailblazer group of employers, who devise apprenticeship standards for the childcare sector, had come about because the process was ‘not employer-led.’

The IfA has now responded, saying it does ‘work collaboratively’ with ‘all employers’. A spokesman said ‘We have been informed that Busy Bees Nurseries has decided to step down from the early years trailblazer group.

‘We want to thank them and the wider trailblazer group for their commitment and contribution to developing the Level 3 Early Years Educator apprenticeship standard.

‘The institute has worked collaboratively with all employers involved in developing this standard, and we will continue to do so for the development of other early years standards.’

Busy Bees had said it was ‘stepping down because we truly believe it should be an employer-led process and unfortunately this has not been the case.’

It also hinted that the IfA panel which makes the decision, which contains just one representative from a PVI setting, does not truly understand the nature of the early years sector, saying, ‘Childcare is, and should be, a highly regulated sector. Therefore, our industry input and knowledge should be vital... I would urge the IfA to listen to the views of employers and give them more involvement in setting the overall standards being discussed.’

A source said the panel had wanted to impose a GCSE requirement on the standard, despite one having been put in place and then removed following a huge drop in Level 3 candidates.

The IfA has also confirmed that the latest end-point assessment plan [EPA], was submitted by the trailblazers on 26th September - six months after the first draft EPA was submitted. Once the EPA is approved, a final decision can be made on the level of funding provided for the apprenticeship, and the standard can go live. The standard has been given an indicative funding band of £6,000-£8,000.

A spokesman said the draft assessment plan ‘is currently being reviewed by the Institute.’ 

He added ‘We aim to respond to any submission within six weeks. A final funding band recommendation will only be made to the Minister for Skills once the EPA plan has been approved or approved with conditions by the Institute.’

This latest twist follows the acrimonious dismissal of the first trailblazer group which first submitted a proposal for a level 3 standard in 2014. The chair of that trailblazer group threatened to take the Government to judicial review over the sacking.

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