Since starting teaching over 11 years ago, I’ve taught hundreds of students across a range of qualifications and from organisations large and small. I have many memorable teaching moments but one that always stands out is teaching an evening class in Bradford. My students were from all walks of life, of all ages. Some had aspirations to obtain full Chartered status, others just wanted to pass these exams. But for each one, without exception, this qualification mattered to them – the achievement on passing it, a great one. And the qualification: AAT Level 2.
So witnessing the fairly rapid decline in the value and importance of Level 2 Apprenticeships has been very disheartening. Back in December, OFSTED’s Deputy Director of FE and Skills, Paul Joyce, commented that he was very worried about the lack of development in new standards at ‘lower’ levels and the detrimental impact this would have on the recruitment of 16-18 year olds.
In contrast, more and more Apprenticeships are now being created at higher and degree levels. We champion the development of so many Apprenticeships at Level 4 and above and undoubtedly these have been a major factor in helping to position Apprenticeships on an equal footing to University, enabling firms to propose a truly compelling offer to bright young school leavers.
But surely this rise in ‘higher’ level programmes didn’t have to be accompanied by the dismissal of Level 2 Apprenticeships as ‘low level’ and therefore ‘low quality’ suggesting they are of no value and importance. This feels very short-sighted and misses the point that many of these programmes include or recommend professional qualifications that can lead to great things. Instead it only serves to perpetuate the snobbery surrounding Apprenticeships that so many of us in the sector are working hard to redress.
Of more concern is that even when groups get the required employer support to create a Level 2 standard, the current funding levels proposed means it is very likely to be doomed from the start. To suggest that any Apprenticeship, that contains a recognised and respected Professional Qualification that genuinely adds value to the individual and business, can be delivered for just £2,000 is extremely worrying.
Rather than dismiss Level 2, should we not be celebrating the opportunity for progression it can create. How aspirational to soon be able to celebrate the first apprentices who have worked their way through Level 2, all the way up to Level 7. Not everybody wants to start at Level 4, not everybody can start at Level 4. The University vs Apprenticeship debate isn’t relevant for everybody and surely that’s OK? Apprenticeships shouldn’t only be the preserve of high fliers.
Bucking the trend of fewer ‘lower level’ Apprenticeships being developed, we welcome the news that the Level 2 Accounts Assistant Apprenticeship standard has recently been approved and congratulate those employers, providers and professional bodies who have championed the need for this essential addition to the range of Accountancy Apprenticeships available.
Let’s hope it’s given a sensible funding band which will enable thousands of aspiring students, young or old, to share the joy and pride of those I taught in Bradford all those years ago. If we truly want to celebrate all that’s good about Apprenticeships, let’s bring Level 2 back into the Apprenticeship family fold - we’ve missed you!