Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service's apprenticeship scheme praised by Ofsted

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has been praised for creating a "culture of inclusivity" regarding apprenticeships, an education watchdog has said.

Inspectors from Ofsted carried out checks of the service's further education offering across two days in May this year, and rated it as being "Good" overall.

It was rated as "outstanding" in providing personal development for apprentices as well as for their behaviour and attitudes, with apprentices being "highly positive".

And the quality of education, leadership and management and apprenticeships were each rated as "Good", meaning the service was rated as being "Good" overall.

The report acknowledged how all of the 37 firefighter apprentices complete a 15-week course prior to being deployed as part of an operational watch crew at one of the 33 stations across the county.

And as a result of their training, "apprentices trust their knowledge and skills – and those of their team – and feel safe in their role", the report said, while their "behaviour and attitudes are exceptionally well-developed’ with ‘an uncompromising focus on the communities they serve".

The report also noted how station and watch managers have "carefully created a culture of inclusivity within the service…in which apprentices feel safe, learn new skills and develop confidence and resilience in their abilities as firefighters".

The service’s safeguarding arrangements to ensure the health, safety and welfare of apprentices while on training and on operational deployment was also deemed effective by Ofsted.

However, the report did note that leaders need to need to enable more support for apprentices in achieving sound literacy and numeracy skills, but that this work was already under way.

It also noted that training instructors and managers should provide consistent written feedback to apprentices to help them know how they can improve and evaluate their improvement against measurable targets.

Chief Fire Officer Rob Barber said: "I am so pleased that the work of our apprentices, trainers, station and watch managers has been recognised by the regulator.

"These people work hard to ensure that our personnel are developed to the highest standard, and it is great to see their work recognised by the regulator.

"To read that a culture of inclusivity has been created where people can learn and develop is how we can be assured our firefighters are competent and confident in their abilities.

"I am personally always very impressed with the attitudes the trainees have towards their learning and development, and how committed they are to their communities."

The service's head of learning and development Simon Craythorn said work to deliver on some improvements is already under way, adding: "I am thrilled that the report noted how apprentices are ‘highly positive’ about their training as well as their relationships in the community and I hope this continues as we work to deliver the best outcomes for our trainees and the people of Staffordshire.”

Staffordshire Commissioner for Police, Fire & Rescue and Crime, Ben Adams, said he was "delighted" the apprenticeship programme had been praised by Ofsted.

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