The government has confirmed today that schools will be included among public sector bodies expected to employ apprentices – although larger organisations such as the BBC and Houses of Parliament are handed exemptions.
The move comes despite schools expressing concerns about the affordability of paying for new apprentices, as well as “practical difficulties” in employing them because many teaching roles require a degree.
The government today confirmed that at least 2.3 per cent of the workforce in English public sector bodies with more than 250 employees will have to be apprentices.
The policy is part of a government drive to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 – a Conservative party manifesto pledge.
Ministers chose to include schools and multi-academy trusts in the rules, despite exempting larger public bodies including the BBC, Channel 4, the Post Office, and the Houses of Parliament.
Malcolm Trobe (pictured above), interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was unfair to exclude some commercial companies but include schools.
He told Schools Week: “It is inappropriate that we have a national education service which has not been exempt in any way from this target, whereas a number of other organisations which can be considered commercial are being exempted.”
A school with 250 employees, for example, would have to hire at least six apprentices each year, assuming its workforce remains at the same level.
Schools Week previously reported that some larger academy trusts face having to hire up to 120 apprentices each year.
The apprenticeship targets will be introduced from April (we have an explainer here).
Consultation respondents stated schools should be exempt from the target because teaching is a “graduate profession so it is not possible to have teaching apprentices”.
The report stated: “Finally, there was concern that the costs of the targets (salaries, on-costs, training) would divert funds away from their core educational purpose.”
The government said it had “reflected carefully” on responses, but believed it was appropriate for schools to be included, “given that this simply requires them to actively consider apprentices as part of workforce planning and ‘have regard’ to the target”.
The consultation stated the government is working with the schools community to “address perceived barriers to taking on apprentices”.
The consultation also shows that local authorities were concerned about their ability to meet the target because maintained schools have control over their own budget and recruitment.
But the government said it is content for authorities to show results for schools separately in their annual report.
The government said the BBC and Channel 4 will be omitted because they are only on the ONS list for the purpose of producing national accounts and associated statistical products.
It also said the Post Office is “outside the scope” and the right of the Houses of Parliament to regulate their own proceedings and internal affairs means parliament is “not subject to control or direction of ministers and will therefore not be in scope of the duty”.
The government has calculated that, of the 600,000 staff working in the schools sector, 110,000 work for schools, trusts or councils that employ more than 250 people. If correct, schools will need to hire 3,000 apprentices in total.
Apprenticeships must last for at least one year and combine on-the-job training with college courses.
Employers that fall under the rules will have a duty to “have regard” to the target. This means “in making workforce planning decisions, a body … must actively consider apprenticeships, either for new recruits or as part of career development for existing staff”.
It adds: “However if a body cannot show that they have ‘had regard’ to the target we will work with them to see what support is needed to enable them to meet the target in future years.”