Aiming for ‘Outstanding’

05 Jul 19

For new apprenticeship providers, the thought on an Ofsted inspection can be daunting to say the least, and achieving Ofsted’s rigorous ‘Outstanding’ standard is something that, for many, is a distant dream.

But for all of us at Raise the Bar, it’s our driving force.

It is our inspiration, our daily motivation and something that helps us to evolve, improve and grow as a collective group.

When we set out on our apprenticeship journey, we were clear that we wanted to help organisations by delivering the best leadership and management solution in the same high-quality way we support our non-apprenticeship clients.

We wanted their – and our – efforts to deliver a return on investment. To deliver results.

The obvious recognition for this high quality in apprenticeships was to achieve Ofsted Outstanding. Therefore, we built this ambition into our strategic goals and began our journey with some key decisions:


Integrate apprenticeships into our core business and secure executive buy-in

Early on, we made clear that our goal was Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ status – and that this would need to be a key business and executive team commitment.

We agreed quantity would be secondary. We would not chase funding for the sake of it, but instead we’d limit the number of organisations we work with and focus squarely on quality – in terms of the content, the delivery, the outputs and, most importantly, the outcomes and results we achieve together.

It is a strategy that has enabled us to hit our target number of apprentices on programme for year one within just eight months.

The key, for us, is to be smart about how we manage growth in this area, but this approach has given us an incredible platform to begin to expand our offering, and we’re keen to speak to more people and businesses about how we can deliver – in the right way – together.


Be the best at what we’re best at

We opted not to compromise on the high-quality standards we demand in our non-apprenticeship programmes and we’re focused on providing all our clients with the same level of quality and innovation they expect from Raise the Bar.

So, we set out to make our mark in the market by delivering the very best at what we’re best at – and that is leadership and management solutions – but this time within the apprenticeship market. We have no plans to expand our apprenticeships offering outside of leadership and management and will be sticking with our area of specialism.

Our expansion into apprenticeships enables us to use our wealth of experience of what works and what doesn’t to devise and deliver an accredited leadership programme that truly meet the needs of the employers we work alongside.


Be a trusted advisor and partner

We are engaging with lots of business all the time, and we’re finding there’s still so much confusion out there, with myths to be debunked constantly.

Whether we’re working with a brand or they’re asking us for our advice, it’s our job to make the process clear and simple, and to become their trusted advisor.

When you’re not simply chasing funding for the sake of profitability, it means we can be honest brokers of advice and support, we can advise as trusted external partners and make clear how we can take any worries away.

That means committing to giving our partners all the support they need up front, guiding them through the process, being clear about the commitment required from both them and us, and giving them the confidence to know that they are working with a safe pair of hands.

Be relentless about tracking, monitoring and reporting our results

Apprenticeship programmes should never be considered as box-ticking exercises; done well, they can truly revolutionise a business and boost the capabilities and performance of its leaders.

Every apprenticeship programme we deliver is monitored closely against the key targets – and we do this so our clients don’t have to worry about it. We regularly report key figures to our employers and discuss any potential risks before they become an issue.

This also means that we don’t overload our coaches, and I’d always recommend asking any prospective training provider for their caseload numbers to get a feel for their expectations of the coaches and the time they allow them to properly support their apprentices.


Never stop finding ways to get better

We have a continuous improvement cycle for our apprenticeship programme, reviewing every element of the programme month by month to look for any tweaks or improvements based on our experience and feedback to date.

And our attention to detail is working, with a current retention rate of 96% and lots of positive feedback from those engaged in our current contracts.

Quality is an ongoing commitment for us and is reflected in our company values…We Care, We Dream, We Win, We Own It.


Believe in executive development

And last but not least, we’re great believers in the power of investing in your current and future leaders. I’d ask:

  • How many of the managers in your business have been or will be promoted to a management position without any formal training?
  • How are they then expected to have the required skills to effectively lead a team, support and motivate them?
  • And how can they really know how to increase productivity through correctly managing their team and your business priorities?

Although there is some negativity about using the apprenticeship levy for executive development, we truly believe this is flawed. It’s a skills gap that every business has, and the majority will not address – prioritising what training budgets they have for specific and technical training needs.

But businesses that do invest in management development, reap the benefits. We know this, because we live it. We see it. And we make it happen.

The question is: Could we make it happen for you too?


Get in touch for a free consultation

We’re open to speaking to any organisation who is eligible for the apprenticeship levy, so if you’re looking for a trusted partner to deliver leadership and management apprenticeships – or just need good advice – then please get in touch with us at

Becs Bridge

Director of Operations
Raise The Bar