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Heritage Skills Academy gains Good Marks from Ofsted.

Updated: Dec 27, 2021

Since opening its doors in 2017, this centre of excellence for heritage engineering apprenticeships has been growing fast. After its first visit from the regulator, it seems that the hard work is paying off.

As well as its role inspecting schools, Ofsted is now responsible for evaluating apprenticeship providers; it recently carried out a Monitoring Visit to the Bicester Heritage campus of the Heritage Skills Academy (H.S.A.) to assess the quality of teaching.

The results, published today, show that Ofsted have judged H.S.A. to have made "reasonable progress" since it was founded. For a monitoring visit, that's the second highest grade available.

In the past 12 months, The Heritage Skills Academy has continued to grow to well-over 100 apprentices, strengthen its teaching and coaching teams, develop a full suite of online teaching tools in response to Covid and has now opened a second campus at Brooklands Museum. It is heartening to hear that Ofsted has not found that such rapid growth has had a detrimental effect on quality. In fact, quite the opposite.

In the inspection report which you can read here, H.S.A. were praised for:

Strong partnerships with employers:

"Leaders started HSA with the clear aim of teaching new generations the skills needed to replace the ageing workforce in the heritage engineering sector. Leaders worked with employers and highly experienced sector experts to develop an apprenticeship standard that qualifies apprentices in the relevant skills and knowledge they need to work in this industry. "

"Employers value that the skills apprentices develop cover the skills deficit in the sector and help them maintain the viability of their businesses."

Matching the correct apprentice to every employer:

H.S.A. pride themselves on how much effort they put into recruitment. These above-and-beyond endeavours were recognised by the Royal Automobile Club when they awarded H.S.A.'s Janice Pitchforth the Personality Award in November 2020. It has now been recognised by Ofsted as well:

"Leaders and managers recruit apprentices with integrity. They assess applicants’ aspirations and motivation to work in the sector when assessing their suitability for the apprenticeship. Leaders and managers understand the employers they work with and their company values well. They use this knowledge to match employers with suitable candidates and they support them with the recruitment process. As a result, most apprentices remain on programme. "

High standards of training for apprentices:

In commenting on the benefits that apprentices gain from high quality training, Ofsted had this to say:

"Apprentices develop substantial new skills, knowledge and behaviours that enable them to become more independent and over time take on more complex projects in the workplace. For example, apprentices manage restoration work which involves liaising with customers, ordering stock and completing technical work to a high standard. "

"Apprentices are proud of their apprenticeship and talk with confidence about the knowledge and skills they have learned. "

"Trainers and employers instil high expectations in all apprentices. Many apprentices achieve high marks in their assignments and develop skills that will enable them to progress in their careers."

Reactions to the report:

Commenting on the Ofsted report, Heritage Skills Academy founder and MD, John Pitchforth, said:

‘‘Heritage Skills Academy was set up to preserve the skills and knowledge required to ensure classic vehicles are maintained, preserved and restored to the highest standard by the next generation of specialist engineers.

The findings of the OFSTED Monitoring Visit recognise that the HSA Team have created an apprenticeship programme that is highly valued by employers and apprentices, recruits with integrity and that apprentices are proud to be a part of. The report recognises that apprentices gain substantial skills, knowledge and confidence and feel safe and well supported by the HSA team.

As MD and founder of Heritage Skills Academy, I am immensely proud of what the HSA Team has achieved. I am confident that our apprentices will go on to have exciting and challenging opportunities and go on to become leaders within the industry.’

Francis Galashan, Chair of Trustees of the Federation Skills Trust who grant-support heritage engineering apprenticeship providers, including The Heritage Skills Academy, said:

"We are delighted that Ofsted recognises the high quality and very relevant apprenticeship training that the Heritage Skills Academy continues to provide. 75% of employers in the vehicle restoration sector report difficulties recruiting staff with the correct skills and knowledge for their businesses. Without effective apprenticeship training this industry will witness a worsening skills deficit, with consequences for businesses and customers alike. It's great to see the effectiveness of this solution being recognised by Ofsted."


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