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Apprenticeship success factors

Ellie Lloyd, an apprentice with the Pre-school Learning Alliance, recently won NMT magazine’s Nursery Apprentice Award 2016. In this article, Velda Bartholomew, Operational Training Manager at the Alliance, reflects on the key factors which lead to success for apprentices within the Early Years sector.


Ellie Lloyd, who is currently enrolled as a Level 3 Apprentice with the Pre-school Learning Alliance, was the proud recipient of the Nursery Management Today (NMT) magazine’s Nursery Apprentice Award 2016. Winners of these awards were presented with trophies at a high profile Gala Evening on 26th November 2016 at London Metropole Hotel.

Flourishing apprentices achieve success and become a valuable member of the workforce when their training involves a supportive team all contributing to their programme. If we examine Ellie’s success, it is plain to see that her positive attitude, ability to work as a team, progress with her course work and natural ability with children made her an obvious choice for her manager Paulina Bush-Soethoudt to nominate her for this award. As well as feeling an immense sense of pride in Ellie’s achievement, this occasion also provided the opportunity to reflect on how success was achieved. Whilst it is appreciated that not every apprentice can be an award winner, the main aspects can be analysed to ensure the Pre-school Learning Alliance runs a successful and professional apprenticeship programme where every learner has a positive experience.

Ellie’s first contact with the Pre-school Learning Alliance arose when she visited a recruitment day at one of our nursery settings.  This event took place on a Saturday morning, which ensured there was a focused team discussing the requirements of the apprenticeship programme with Ellie, whilst assessing her skills, experience and general suitability for the training.

The next stage was an interview in the setting where her training would be based, this was a vital aspect as her manager, Paulina, established that Ellie had the skills to fit in well with the team and displayed the natural ability to communicate with parents and the children in her care.

The apprenticeship programme involves developing skills and knowledge, and as these skills need to be assessed, another crucial part of the team is the assessor/tutor. The tutor assesses the knowledge aspects of the course, and also carries out visits to observe and evaluate the apprentice’s ability to provide the vital skills required in the day-to-day work of a childcare practitioner. Angela Pugh is the very experienced tutor/assessor who was appointed to carry out these aspects of Ellie’s programme. Success in this area was clearly demonstrated by excellent team work and communication between the tutor/assessor and the enthusiastic staff members at the setting. 

In order to be a successful apprentice, there must be a certain discipline from the apprentice themselves to complete the required knowledge of the qualification and meet the deadlines issued. This aspect was carried out on-line using distance-learning where Ellie would complete the work issued to her on a regular basis by Angela (her tutor/assessor). This would be assessed and feedback given to ensure Ellie was aware of her strengths and of course recommendations where she could improve and develop over time. The team in the setting worked alongside Ellie under Paulina’s guidance to help her apply the theory to her practice.

This discipline is further tested as the advanced apprenticeship programme includes the requirement for GCSE Mathematics and English at Grade C or above and Functional Skills (ICT) at level 2. Having achieved Mathematics and English requirements during her school years, Ellie only had to complete the ICT element to achieve her framework. This was also completed online with the introduction of a specialist ICT tutor (Eve Smith) who issued tasks for her to finish before establishing that she was ready to sit the external assessment, which she sat and passed in November 2016.

Ellie is now approaching the final stages of her apprenticeship programme which she is due to complete in May 2017. Reflecting on her achievement, as we move into an increased focus on Apprentices (owing to the introduction of the new Apprenticeship levy) we have established that Ellie’s success can provide the foundation on which to further expand and develop our apprenticeship provision.

Ellie’s success has encouraged the recognition that there must be a clear vision of how to support apprentices at senior management level. The initial assessment and establishing the right programme for each applicant is a clear catalyst to successful achievement, thus recognising that the apprentice has a dual purpose as an employee and a learner.