In my capacity as a degree apprentice practice tutor, I’m invited to a regular professional development and update meeting which currently takes place on the second Friday of each month. At the time of writing, these meetings are hosted by two colleagues: Chris Thompson and Andy Hollyhead.
This blog post shares a set of notes that were made during a PT training meeting that took place on 8 July 22. The key points on the agenda were, broadly:
- The OU Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) and our response
- F2F meeting update
- Good academic conduct for apprentices
The university is introducing a new ePortfolio tool, moving from the current system, which is called OneFile, to a different product. Accounts are currently being created, and training will be provided in September 22 with a view to using it from the beginning of October, when new groups are created. Files and records, such as timesheets will (I understand) be moving between the systems.
Quality improvement plan
A quality improvement plan has been put together by the university following the production of an OU annual self-assessment report (which is an internal evaluation about the quality of the degree apprenticeship provision).
Some key points that are to be looked at as a part of the plan include:
- Targeted CPD throughout the year, which includes the further development of a supportive observation process to help develop practice, to ensure all PTs and ALs are provided with development opportunities to enable others to become outstanding. Practice tutor meetings are being observed.
- An intention to link observational practice and improvement to the tutor CDSA process to ensure all apprentices are identified (or presented) in terms of having a RAG status (red, amber, and green), and have individual action plans.
- Increasing the frequency of contact for learners who are red or amber: If an apprentice is flagged as being amber or red, there’s an additional meeting (which can be claimed back as an additional support session) and there is an action plan that is to be completed, and another follow up meeting in a month’s time.
- Review all apprentice progress monthly, including a review of individual plans where apprentice progress is rated red or amber.
- Ensure practice tutors use ‘starting points’ to inform learning plans: the next intake, aim to get a skills audit and commitment statement early, so students can speak about them during the early meeting, to gain a detailed understanding of the needs of students.
- Practice tutors will begin to discuss ‘next steps’ with apprentices, to understand what their intentions beyond their apprenticeship. I have noted down the point: start picking up at each progress review, to facilitate a career related discussion.
- Upskill practice tutors to ensure that knowledge, skills and behaviours are reviewed throughout all stages
- Ensure attendance of apprenticeship mentor (line manager/supervisor) at all Tripartite Review meetings: someone who represents the organisation, needs to be at the meeting. If this doesn’t happen, there should be referrals to the university apprenticeship programme delivery managers (ADPMs).
- Improve the recording of off the job training: apprentices are told to record their timesheets. This is known to be a contractual obligation. The employer line manager and apprentice has to know that timesheets need to be recorded. If they are no doing this, this needs to be escalated, through the APDMs. If no responses, then the processes for removal from the programme may be instigated. There needs to be an entry every 4 weeks, to show that the apprentice is in learning.
- Ensure all apprentices receive the minimum number of reviews regularly: every apprentice must have 4 reviews. The only exception is if they have a break in learning.
- Enhance supportive measure to keep apprentices in learning: develop better monitoring of apprentices, between modules.
A return to face-to-face review meetings
From 1 August 2022, practice tutors are allowed to return to face to face reviews. There should be one face to face every year, and a maximum gap of 15 weeks between each review, and evidence of the planning of the next review (which should be captured on the ePortfolio).
Apprentices returning following a study break
A study break is, simply put, a period of time when an apprentice is not studying their academic of work-based modules. A break in learning might occur due to personal commitments. Apprentices should have the review within 4 weeks of returning to study. Also, a conversation is needed early on during the apprentice’s study of a programme to ensure they are on the right programme.
For the formal part of the meeting, the apprentice, line manager, and the practice tutor must be present. If it is a face-to-face meeting, and there isn’t a line manager, try to find a delegate. It is a funding requirement that these meetings take place. They should, ideally be scheduled two weeks in advance.
If there are students returning from a break in learning, get in contact with them two months before their restart, to make sure they feel they are ready to start learning. Also, ensure they are recording on the job timesheets to provide evidence of study.
Lone working guidance
The university has now prepared some new guidance about lone working, which is appropriate for when practice tutors visit an employer. There’s a checklist, and an accompanying risk assessment, for visiting locations. Practice tutors must review this official guidance when planning a first progress review meeting.
Good academic conduct for apprentices
Good academic conduct is important. In the apprenticeship context, a group of apprentices might start working at an organisation at the same time. Whilst it is certainly okay that peers gain support from each other, and collaborate closely on work tasks, peers should not collaborate with each other when it comes to working on and submitting academic assessments (unless group work is specifically required on an assessment task).
During this session Andy Hollyhead shared a number of slides from a fellow Practice Tutor, Stewart Long. The presentation (which could be shared with apprentices) covers the topic of plagiarism and the difference between collaboration and collusion.
One of the good things about this session is that it offered reassurance about the things that I am doing well and also offered some helpful guidance about what I should be doing, and ought to be doing more of.
A particularly interesting point is the link between the apprentice, the employer, and their wider career aspirations. I’m very much a subject specialist, rather than a careers specialist, but I’m certainly draw on my own knowledge of roles and opportunities with the IT and Computing sector and bring them into discussions with apprentices. This said, I do feel that this is an area that I need to develop, or get a bit more knowledgeable about.
I was particularly encouraged that I was doing the right things, in terms of planning for review meetings with employers and apprentices. One thing I do need to do is expose more of the actions that I am taking. Just as the apprentice must record off the job training, in the form of timesheets, I also need to make sure that the scheduled review dates are recorded within the ePortfolio, to ensure that colleagues within the apprenticeship team can see what is scheduled. I have all the dates in my Outlook calendar. I need to transfer them to OneFile (and, eventually, the new ePorfolio system, when it is introduced).
More information about the OU degree apprenticeships are available through the OU Apprenticeship pages.