A new report by Estyn published today explores how Essential Skills Wales (ESW) qualifications – including literacy, numeracy and digital skills – are delivered in work-based learning apprenticeships. The report highlights the importance of essential skills and suggests there are opportunities to improve assessment.
Although providers effectively enable learners to achieve their ESW qualifications, the inspectorate found the learning and teaching of essential skills in apprenticeships focused on preparation for external assessment. This may impact the ability of learners to retain these skills and the value they place on them for use in work or wider life.
The study also shows how the ESW assessment could better align with the needs of learners. Apprentices were found to strongly prefer learning literacy, numeracy and digital skills through the context of their work and vocational training. This contrasts with a model of ESW assessment that is largely generic and often unrelated to the work context of the apprentice.
Owen Evans, Chief Inspector, says, ‘Enabling apprentices to gain important skills they may have missed out on previously is a vital but challenging part of the training jigsaw. Although work-based learning providers are working hard to ensure learners gain these vital skills, they and their learners face a number of challenges, particularly around assessment.’
‘Our report found that nearly all learners, tutors and employers who participated in our study valued developing literacy, numeracy and digital skills – but many expressed reservations about the suitability of the ESW qualification. Policy makers should consider our findings as they review the ESW qualification to ensure apprentices get the best opportunity possible to learn and apply these fundamental skills.’
The report notes there is a challenge to develop the skills needed for their ESW assessments for many learners during the relatively short period of an apprenticeship.
Despite these challenges, the study shows how work-based learning providers are using a range of delivery models to overcome these issues. The report shares six different delivery models and their respective strengths and weaknesses.
Steve Bell, author of the report, says, ‘This study gives voice to the nearly 1,200 apprentices, employers, tutors and assessors who responded to our online survey – along with 200 more who talked with us face‑to‑face during our visits to providers. The report brings together insights, alongside interesting case studies of effective practice and several recommendations. We invite providers to reflect on their delivery models, and encourage Welsh Government, Qualifications Wales and other partners to work closer together to ensure ESW qualifications more fully align with learners’ needs.’