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Guest Blog from Karen Derbyshire: Supporting Apprentices

February 4, 2024
8 minute read

Karen Derbyshire is the Operations Director for Early Years at Realise. Karen started her career as an apprentice in a day nursery, before quickly climbing up the ranks to become a Nursery Manager. After following her passion for education, Karen later pursued a career in apprenticeships, where she has worked for the last 24 years. Under Karen’s leadership, Realise has grown to become the largest apprenticeship provider for early years today.

What are the different elements to an apprenticeship and how can they be supported in setting?

The apprenticeship can be broken down into five elements, which are:

1. The Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) is the regulated qualification that Ofsted look for to class learners as full and relevant at that level.

To achieve this, it’s important to offer opportunities to experience different activities within the setting including observations. The setting should also allow for time for questions and understanding the why and regularly provide developmental feedback including what the apprentice needs to improve on and writing witness testimonies to support the apprentices progress.

2. Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours (KSBs) are the key criteria in which the apprenticeship is marked against.

Within the setting, the apprentice will need to have access to opportunities to increase their KSBs. This could include reading policies and then seeing them in action. For example, they could read a policy on sickness and injury and then observe colleagues following the procedures set.

3. Maths and English skills are essential to complete the programme.

With maths and English, it’s about being interested in what the apprentice is learning. All learners get an individualised plan so the setting can find out more about this to support learning. The setting could support learning through introducing the learner to other colleagues who are strong at Maths and English to support them outside of the more formal training sessions. The apprentice will also need opportunities to practise their spelling and grammar in the setting which could include writing reports or practising speaking and listening.

4. Paediatric first aid is a vital part of the apprentices learning. In my experience, most employers prefer to offer this themselves through their own cohort. But this can be provided by the training provider if required.

5. End point assessment is the final formal assessment.

This is where the apprentice will be marked against their knowledge, skills and behaviours that they have learnt over the duration of the programme. To support this, talk to the apprentices about how they are feeling about undertaking this element of their programme – do it from the beginning so it becomes second nature.

Throughout the programme, ensure that they are capturing their learning through reflective journals and being reflective practitioners as they will need to evidence this in their end point assessment.

There are common themes throughout all the elements which include supporting apprentices to be active learners, taking responsibility for their programme, offering support where needed and helping them to understand the relationship between their study and work.

What are you committing to when you have an apprentice starting in your setting?

The employer’s commitment is to offer support and guidance to the apprentice as they undertake their apprenticeship journey.

It’s vital that an apprentice feels supported and receives a positive onboarding experience. Starting something new can be scary, but it doesn’t need to be if the right support is put in place. To help with this, a robust induction is vital. This includes identifying the learners starting point and identifying their previous experiences. The training provider can help with this too as they will conduct assessments at the start of the programme.

I strongly suggest that employers spend time getting to know their apprentice from the start. This really helps to build up positive relationships and helps the apprentice to feel supported. You could find out their hobbies and interests outside of work. It’s also useful to know about their career goals and any ambitions for the future.

Support goes beyond the curriculum too. Employers should be prepared to offer emotional and wellbeing support, give feedback in the moment, facilitate opportunities for learning, share their knowledge and advocate for the apprentice.

One of the key areas to focus on is where the apprentice requires additional support. It’s the employer’s role (in conjunction with the training provider) to provide the apprentice with the tools they need to succeed. For example, could they benefit from having a mentor from the very start?

What can early years leaders expect from the training provider?

The training provider is there to support early years leaders to develop their people.

Early years leaders can expect a robust initial assessment which includes diagnosing the learners starting point to ensure that they are on the right programme.

From there, an individualised programme of learning can be created. The programme will include teaching and assessment of apprentices. In this programme will be information around apprenticeship training including support to ensure training is received, identified, and logged.

Support will be provided to develop apprentices’ maths, English and digital skills too. This is because the learner won’t be able to pass the qualification without having these skills. It’s therefore vital that

the training provider offers additional training in these areas, as well as additional support to be provided where needed.

Throughout the duration of the apprenticeship, regular updates and feedback are crucial. It’s important that progress is tracked, and plans can be put in place should an apprentice need to catch up at any point.

Additionally, wider learning should also be available including career aspirations, British values, keeping safe and prevent.

Towards the end of the apprenticeship, the provider should be offering support with end point assessment, and this includes making any reasonable adjustments that are required by the learner.

After the apprenticeship is completed, the provider should also be reaching back out to the employer and learner to look at progression and the next steps. This could include looking at further training.

What ongoing support does an apprentice need?

Communication is key when it comes to ongoing support. We aim to ensure that the learner and their employer has access to regular updates, and we do this through a mix of formal and informal approaches.

Apprentices at Realise are assigned a trainer who has worked in the industry. This is vital as it means that they understand the demands of the early years sector.

The trainer will ensure that the apprentice and their employer get monthly progress reports, as well as goal setting meetings every 8-12 weeks.

It’s important to set clear expectations and provide guidance where expectations aren’t met. Without regular communication between the apprentice, employer and trainer, this cannot be achieved.

On top of this, trainers provide emotional and wellbeing support. At Realise, this is offered through out trained safeguarding and wellbeing deputies. Advice, information and guidance is available on topics such as mental health, homelessness, financial struggles, employment related issues and safeguarding concerns.

What is off job training and how can this be supported?

The term ‘off the job training’ might sound scary at first. In fact, we use the term ‘apprenticeship training’ instead. That’s because this element of the apprenticeship is about gaining new Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours (KSBs).

This is a requirement of the apprenticeship. It means that a maximum of six hours a week is to be given to the apprentices to study towards their programme and learn new KSBs.

Any learning activity that develops new KSBs counts. As long as it happens during paid working hours. It’s very flexible and some elements will be delivered by Realise and others by the employer. For example, completing daily routines for the first time or attending a webinar delivered by Realise.

To support the learner with this we will map activities into our curriculum, and everything will be agreed in the training plan at the beginning of the programme.

What is the role of the mentor?

The apprentice’s mentor is a role model. They are also a vital source of support and will be on hand throughout the apprenticeship to offer guidance, advice and feedback.

A good mentor will be able to share their own experiences to support the apprentice. In addition, they will be there to help the apprentice to access new opportunities, which will help them to put theory into practice.

The mentor is there to offer feedback that’s constructive and helps the apprentice to improve. They will set expectations and review work with the apprentice, ensuring that the apprentice has the help they need to develop.

They will also be available to provide emotional support and encouragement.

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