Firstly, I’ll say from the outset, I’m a massive advocate of apprenticeships. We have had a number of staff in the past, as well as current staff who have been on or are currently on apprenticeship programmes. We are planning more. Over time we have developed our own TA-to-teacher apprenticeship model where there was previously a gap in the market for this, and where there were programmes, that didn’t suit our needs.
To give you a little background, our school is based in the North West of England within Lancashire and so Lancashire is our LA. We are a teaching school, providing SCITT programmes and we have a cohort of trainee teachers up to 26 per year for primary and 26 for secondary across the teaching school alliance, we work collaboratively as an alliance of 4 teaching schools, 20 strategic partners and over 40 member schools. Our location, being semi-rural, presents both opportunities and challenges. As part of a large education authority the offer is spread geographically over a large area, for example, we have a college provider in the east of the county, and they run several apprenticeship courses whilst our school is based in the west of the county. Apprenticeships are for all ages, though where you have a 16-year-old or someone who does not drive and who is keen to develop with your school, how do you get them to that location to study? This was one of the frustrations in being able to access the levy to benefit our learners. Fortunately for most of our current apprenticeships the training provider has been able to deliver on site.
We currently have a teaching assistant on a Level 3 (L3) apprenticeship, and she is taking her end point assessment this summer after 2 years on the programme. We have arranged a placement for her at another school within our teaching school alliance. The school is not a levy payer as they are out of our authority. The host school in turn supports delivery of sessions to our SCITT programme. Essentially, we have collaborated with them to get the best for this lady’s ambitions and for our schools, so they have the right skills in the right place and time.
Another Level 2 (L2) TA is currently upskilling on a L3 apprenticeship (TA). They have decided not to take a higher apprenticeship qualification and is going down an older apprenticeship route to allow L3 completion within a year to then go on to eventually complete a top up degree in education.
Similarly, another of our TAs through our appraisal system, talked about what she liked doing and found the natural affinity with SEN children. We got her a placement in a neighbouring school who needed SEN support. This again ensures everyone has access to highly skilled staff whilst our TA realises her ambitions. Prior to the apprentice levy the school has supported four of our TAs through to teaching.
We have recently recruited an apprentice SBM. They are a post A-level school leaver. They have just started the L3 in Business Administration. The plan for them is to then go through the degree apprenticeship. So, at 24 they will have 6 years’ experience and good qualifications in combination, which is an accolade at that younger age. The cost of his apprenticeship wages we have offset with my deployment on the DfE SRMA project where ISBL is a major provider of SRMAs.
Fours year ago, we were recruiting a trainee SBM, which was pre apprenticeship levies and the like. Two applicants were shortlisted and interviewed, and as you would expect, both fitted the bill in different ways. One was experienced, with years working in a children’s centre and was aspiring, happy to take on school administration as their starting point. The other had started university but it wasn’t for her after a year or so. They both provided to be so good that we took the bolder decision of employing both of them. Both undertook the CSBM L4, and commenced L5 thereafter, together. Both are on the Level 5 programme currently and one of them has now applied and secured a post as SBM in another school. Throughout the four years they have both been employed we have been able to second them both from time to time to other schools to offer support and to expand their own CPD. Through these connections with the wider network they have demonstrated impact and improved understanding of the role to other schools, by brokering their support the school has been able to cover the additional cost of the recruitment. The strategy has also offered capacity and future proofing of the back-office function in our school.
The next more immediate plan is to look at the catering team. Our catering manager has recruited into her team and wants to train them, potentially through a catering route.
The message here is that we are a little school on a small budget, but we have still maximised potential in people to provide the maximum gain. On-the-job training and growing our own is part of what we do in our school. Ultimately, the drive our trainees have has a positive impact on our pupils and their outcomes and this is what we’re all trying to achieve isn’t it? Maybe it’s worth seeing how you can make the most of your apprenticeship levy.