Delivery of apprenticeships has become more complex, with a constant battle to deliver high quality provision, remain vigilant to the funding rules and give learners a rewarding experience that aids their personal development and facilitates progression. One such rule is the requirement that providers evidence the recognition of prior learning by an apprentice and adjust programmes accordingly.

The failure to comply with this requirement not only means the possibility of sanctions, it can also impact the retention and success of the apprentice. Alongside the initial assessment of English and maths skills, providers are tasked with taking prior learning and occupational competency into account. 

Ofsted’s Annual Report from Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman details the findings from more than 26,700 inspections carried out throughout 2018-19. Some notable recorded examples (listed on pages 105-109) of related failings by providers about recognising prior learning, include:

  • staff did not use the results of assessments completed at the start of the programme to plan apprentices’ learning
  • when the results from the initial assessments were not being used, apprentices were not learning substantial new knowledge or skills
  • the standard of training was poor in providers that had not used apprentices’ existing knowledge to develop the curriculum
  • progress tracking being done more regularly for adult learners, combined with swifter intervention when they fell behind.

Supporting providers to evidence prior learning

When reviewing the points mentioned above from Amanda Spielman’s Annual Report, it’s clear that these issues could easily be supported by the many incredible EdTech products that are in existence today.

We’ve developed an online skills gap analysis tool, Skills Review, in order to tackle the issue providers are experiencing with evidencing recognised prior learning. Skills Review enables a learner and their employer to review and input prior learning and measure the key areas of knowledge, skills, and behaviours that are part of an apprenticeship standard.

Skills Review is designed to allow the learner to self-assess whether an apprenticeship is an appropriate training programme for them by evaluation of their existing skill set in relation to the apprenticeship standard. This is then validated by the employer and training provider and the results are an accurate representation of what is required to reach occupational competency.

Leading the way for the future of initial assessment

The requirements of initial assessment have always been part of funded programmes, however, the risk of completing this as a ‘tick box’ exercise to meet a compliance rule, does jeopardise the apprentices’ ability to acquire the most appropriate knowledge and skills based on their ability.

Initial and diagnostic assessment tool Skills Builder has been providing millions of assessments to the sector for the past 15 years. By interpreting the results accurately to plan a clear learning journey, this will undoubtedly drive apprentice progress and success. You can measure progress from starting points, distance travelled and access high quality learning resources to support teaching and learning.

Providers can go beyond initial assessment with Skills Review and provide demonstrable evidence that their organisation has taken considered steps to recognise prior learning.  The result of this supports the dialogue with the employer on how the programme will be delivered to reflect any relevant existing knowledge, skills and behaviours and therefore adjusting the programme where appropriate.

Skills Review facilitates a detailed analysis of an individual’s relevant learning and experience against the knowledge, skills and behaviours set out in the apprenticeship standard, and measures progress over time throughout the programme to support curriculum development and safeguard end-point assessment gateway readiness.

Final thoughts

The implementation of Skills Builder and Skills Review allows for a holistic view of the learner’s journey with on-programme evidence of progress that can be under constant review by the learner, employer and the provider and to ensure greater compliance with regulations and support retention and achievement.

Having worked in the apprenticeship sector for many years, one thing that has remained a constant is the change and evolution of apprenticeships, their reputation and the varied degrees of the interpretation of quality. Every delivery organisation is different, and will have their own systems, processes and methods of delivery, but all must follow the same rules in what has become a highly competitive and, dare I say, complicated space.

We are continually motivated by the success of our customers and the progress of their learners.

It is a genuine privilege to lead an organisation that supports the skills sector, with many of our customers delivering apprenticeships across a variety of industries at different levels.

As a business, we are committed to driving innovative solutions that can support high quality teaching, learning and assessment whilst supporting our customers to remain compliant and meet all of their regulatory requirements.

For more information about Skills Forward’s products and services email us at

Share this post!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Making the UK employable: Plan for Jobs and Build Back Better

One really positive thing that has come out of the upheaval of the past 18 months is that it has got us talking! Talking about issues we’re facing, problems we need solving, and most importantly, ways in which we can work together to combat the issues either brought about or exacerbated by the pandemic.

Read More »

Skills Work: Supporting DWP Restarts

When the new £12.9 billion Restart scheme was announced late last year as part of the Government’s Plan for Jobs, it was a welcome lifeline for those who have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. Looking to engage in the contract? We can give your bid the edge!

Read More »

What Skills for Jobs means to Skills Forward

With the release of the recent ‘Skills for Jobs’ white paper, and National Apprenticeship Week last month, the spotlight is well and truly on technical education and lifelong learning.

So, what does this mean for Skills Forward?

Read More »