Academies fail to meet apprenticeship targets

Fewer than one in 10 academy trusts met the new apprenticeship recruitment target, a major study has revealed.

Under new rules, public sector organisations with more than 250 employees must recruit 2.3 per cent of their workforce as apprentices each year.

The new benchmark comes after the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy. Schools with a wage bill of more than £3 million per year pay 0.5 per cent of their payroll to the Government, and in return receive 100 per cent of the training costs for apprentices.

However, the latest figures, published by the Department for Education (DfE), show that the average academy recruited just 0.9 per cent of their workforce as apprentices in the 2018/19 school year.

Conversely, just 18 of 271 academy schools hired over the 2.3 per cent benchmark, while 37 academies hired zero new apprentices over the same period.

According to industry publication Schools Week, academy apprenticeship hiring policies will be judged on a rolling four year period, meaning school leaders have until March 2021 to boost apprenticeship hiring rates.

Experts, meanwhile, have warned that the new apprentice target is “unrealistic”.

“In a school of 300 staff, a 2.3 per cent target would mean that seven starters in any one year would need to be apprentices,” said Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.

“This may be unrealistic in the current climate, as budget constraints mean many schools are cutting non-teaching roles.”

Likewise, Jon Richards, head of education at Unison, said apprenticeship quotas may compromise talent within schools.

“With increased pressure on finance and with increased expectations on school business managers, we would have huge concerns about job substitution,” he said.

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