LCR providers say student mental health is impacting on Apprenticeship delivery

A multitude of causes ranging from homelessness to the Apprenticeship Levy are fuelling the rise in mental health issues among apprentices and other students in Liverpool City Region, according to findings of research conducted by Greater Merseyside Learning Providers Federation (GMLPF). And providers say the rise is impacting on delivery of Apprenticeships in the region.

30% of students experiencing poor mental health

GMLPF conducted a snapshot survey among its members in the Liverpool City Region asking them to share their experiences of student mental health. The results indicate that on average 30% of a provider’s learners are experiencing mental health problems at any point in time. Approximately 40 staff hours a month per provider are taken up dealing with learner mental health. And arguably most signficantly, no single learning provider feels completely equipped to support the rising number of students presenting with mental health issues. 

10 causes

The findings revealed ten principal causes of poor mental health in students, ranging from lack of self-belief to eating disorders and addiction. And because employers have started to take a more hands-on role in Apprenticeships performance due to the introduction of the Levy, their expectations add to students’ pressure.

Ian Lomas, CEO of GMLPF, says:

“Eighty percent of the respondents believe the number of students with mental health issues is on the rise.  A big driver could be that the increase in awareness has led to more cases being reported.  We see this as the one positive, because if we don’t know about a problem we can’t deal with it. Unfortunately this is offset against the increasingly complex nature of the challenges students are facing, and the fact that providers lack the confidence, skills and access to support to effectively manage the problem.”

All levels

The results clearly indicate the need to equip learning providers with the skills they need to help students suffering with mental health.  As pressure increases on learners to achieve more, the stresses are felt at all levels including apprenticeships, traineeships and study programmes.

Providers are clearly struggling to access the services of external specialist agencies. One provider reported the following worry:

“We have tried to refer students to external counselling but appointment waiting times are so long the course is finished by the time appointments are made.” 

Dealing with the effects of cannabis addition on students’ mental health has become routine for some providers, as one told us:

“We work closely with CAMHS and Addaction, for learners where cannabis addiction has affected their mental health.”

Support for providers

The learning providers involved in the study had a range of views on the support they’d like to see.  The most popular suggestion is for short courses and awareness sessions for provider staff.  Respondents also outlined how they would like to see more advice on referral agencies and some supported the idea of more structured training programmes for their staff. We will report back soon on our plans to help boost learning providers’ confidence in dealing positively with students’ mental health.

View full findings on infographic


GMLPF Health and Social Care Forum update

The GMLPF Health and Social Care Forum met last week where Ian Lomas, GMLPF CEO, gave an update on:

  • apprenticeship starts in the sector
  • plans by the LCR local authorities to boost apprenticeship starts in the sector through the use of their Levy
  • the potential impact of new flexibilities for funding of learning within the AEB programme upon apprenticeships.
Apprenticeship starts

Overall, there were some 6,040 apprenticeship starts in the first two quarters of 2017/18. If replicated over the remaining two quarters, total apprenticeship starts in the LCR during 2017/18 will be approximately a 1/3 less than in the preceding year.

Looking at Tier 1 SSA data there were some 5,280 starts in the health, public service and care sector in 2016/17, whereas in the first two quarters of this current 2017/18 year there were only 1,580. If this figure is replicated in the remaining two quarters it is possible that the total number of starts in this area would be some 40% down on last year. This confirms intelligence from providers in the sector.

LCR Local Authority Plans for Growing Apprenticeship Starts in the Sector

The LCR Combined Authority and 6 local authorities held an initial workshop in early July to explore the skills needs of the social care sector, to discuss falling apprenticeship starts in the area and how they might promote apprenticeships more, and boost draw down of the Levy to boost the number of Starts. The workshop included a presentation from Skills for Care. Ian Lomas. GMLPF CEO attended the workshop. A key action is to broker input by the LCR CA and Skills for Care into the next meeting of the Health and Social Care Forum.


There are new freedoms and flexibilities within the AEB programme for 2018/19 including the provision of fully funded learning for employees who earn less than £15,736.50 per annum. This pilot funding has the potential to displace other forms of work based learning that require a degree of co-investment from employers, including apprenticeships, in sectors where wages are below the local average salary. We discussed the potential impact of AEB fully funding learning for those in employment in the Social Care and Early Years sectors and how it might impact upon apprenticeship starts. 

Future meetings of GMLPF Health & Social Care Forum

Thursday 25.10.18 – 2-4pm

Thursday 31.01.19 – 2-4pm

Thursday 25.04.19 – 2-4pm

Thursday 27.07.19 – 2-4pm

Thursday 31.10.19 – 2-4pm

All meetings will be held at NWCS

LCR Learn

Following the Liverpool City Region Area Based Review and the recommendation that a prospectus of advanced and higher level technical skills be developed, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority have worked with national and local stakeholders to produce LCR Learn.

This dynamic prospectus is the first of its type. The prospectus allows the learner to choose and select and save their own individualised prospectus across multiple institutions.

It expands on the initial Area Based Review recommendation to detail locally available advanced and higher level technical skills to support employer and learner choice and now incorporates learning from all levels and ages available in the City Region.

The site has been informed by College and ILP provider submissions detailed on the National Careers Service (NCS) Course Directory. The NCS have kindly made changes to the way in which they structure their developer tools to facilitate links to LCR Learn .

LCR Learn is still in development but GMLPF is keen to ensure that it works effectively, provides an opportunity for members to highlight the range of provision they offer locally and to give learners up to date information on what learning programmes are available locally. LCR Learn should pick and grab information off the NCS Course Directory and automatically highlight it in a search.

Can I ask members to ensure their submissions the National Careers Service Course Directory are accurate, timely and up to date and are as detailed as possible?  Can I also ask you to test the link and see if it captures and presents the full extent your current offer as this will become a valuable means of promoting your organisation and learning offer to learners, employers and stakeholders alike. If you have any issues that you would wish to highlight please let me know (e-mail and I will liaise with the Combined Authority.

Members identify GMLPF priorities for coming 12 months

As part of its programme of member engagement, GMLPF took the opportunity to speak to members at the AGM about what we do well, what we could do better and what our priorities should be over the coming 12 months. 

What we do well

Members recognise the value of GMLPF in raising the profile of learning providers, flagging up concerns and representing them. GMLPF has made advances in last few months in supporting a greater flow of relevant information and engaging members into a wider policy debate.

What we could do better

Members were clear about the challenges facing them and felt that GMLPF could facilitate more networking between members, including a buddying system that provides peer review and support, more networking activity and more CPD activity to ensure that members remain “one step ahead of the game.”

Members saw value in there being more frequent networking opportunities and the development of a number of forums including a DARA forum.

Priorities over next 12 months

A clear priority for members is better understanding and shaping the devolution agenda in particular the AEB programme and preparing for the introduction of T-Levels. Taking forward activities that support the development and delivery of Study Programme and Apprenticeships  Linked to the need for more CPD members indicated that a key priority for the coming year must be developing the capacity and capability of members to respond to mental health issues.

ian lomas speaks to members at agm


GMLPF held its 14th Annual General Meeting last week at The Hallmark Hotel on Sefton Park, attended by 60 guests from regional learning providers, and featured three key speakers: Mike Firth (ESFA), Bev Barlow (Ofsted) and Julie Byrne (LCR Combined Authority)

Mike Firth ESFA

After a brief overview of the annual report for 2016/17 by CEO Ian Lomas and chair Debbie Tagoe, the morning’s programme commenced with an update from Mike Firth, Head of Intervention, ESFA. His presentation focussed on several key areas including an outline of changes within the ESFA, namely the new territorial teams who are responsible for overseeing the FE provider base from October 2018. They will be responsible for assessing risk, managing key budget performance and supporting vulnerable providers. Mike spoke about the internal and external factors that can impact on providers’ financial success or failure.

Mike’s presentation also featured an overview of T-levels and its positioning in relation to Apprenticeships and other post 16 choices, which produced lively discussions amongst members. In response to a request by Ian Lomas prior to the event, Mike dedicated the final part of his session to gaps in provision and market entry.

Download Mike’s slides

Bev Barlow Ofsted

Bev Barlow, Senior HMI, Ofsted, provided an update for members featuring a review of inspection outcomes for Liverpool City Region FE providers. Key issues identified through inspection for LCR providers include off the job training (Apprenticeships), development of new skills and knowledge (Apprenticeships), English and Maths (Study Programmes), levels of challenge (Study Programmes), work experience (Study Programmes) and progression and destinations (Study Programmes). Other issues are listed on Bev’s slides.

Bev also gave an update on the process for inspecting Apprenticeships and new providers, and overviews on future policy and the Education Inspection Framework 2019.

Download Bev’s slides

Julie Byrne LCR Combined Authority

Julie Byrne, the final speaker at the GMLPF AGM, gave guests a useful breakdown of the priorities laid out in the LCR Apprenticeship Growth Plan. Her presentation also provided Apprenticeship start statistics for the region, and considered the challenges facing employers and how the LCR Hub/Combined Authority are addressing these.

Download Julie’s slides

LCR Apprenticeship Hub Board Meeting

GMLPF attended the LCR Apprenticeship Hub Board Meeting on 21 June. Debbie Tagoe will attend future Board Meetings and Ian Lomas will attend a series of Task and Finish Groups, leading on some of them.

The board meeting on the 21st covered the following:

LCR Skills Show

Early feedback from partners, exhibitors, schools and students has been very positive. An evaluation event is to be held on 12 July to review successes, lessons learned and to explore how we can take forward and improve the Skills Show in future. This includes looking at options for a separate City Region Apprenticeship Awards event as some members and stakeholders have suggested a standalone event would be stronger than as a part of the Skills Show. GMLPF would welcome feedback on this from members.

Apprenticeship Volumes

Apprenticeship starts in the LCR continue to fall. Data provided by the LCR Employment and Skills team, which will be posted on the GMLPF Website shortly, show that at the end of Quarter 2 (2017/18):

  • Apprenticeship starts are at 33% of last year’s total number of starts. This compares to 38% and 40% across the wider NW and England respectively. Interestingly St Helens is the one area tht appears to be performing strongly ie it has supported 50% or more starts of the previous year’s total with it supporting 61% of last year’s starts in the first 6 months. This warrants further research to understand the factors for this. In contrast, Wirral has, over the last 6 months, only supported 19% of the starts it achieved last year.
  • The number of 16-18 year olds starting an Apprenticeship appears, at this point, to be higher than in previous years with 33% of starts being 16-18 year old learners whereas the number of 25+ learners starting an Apprenticeship appears to be decreasing
Apprenticeship Growth Plan

GMLPF members contributed to the development of the Growth Plan and the Apprenticeship Hub is now moving into the phase of implementing the key recommendations and planning for monitoring and measuring progress of the implementation phase. The full action plan will be posted on GMLPF’s website. GMLPF is leading in the following areas:

  • surveying members on Apprenticeship delivery to gather intelligence that will complement published data
  • working to encourage greater levels of participation by individuals who have special educational needs and disabilities
  • extending the delivery of high-quality apprenticeship opportunities.

Linked to the Growth Plan, GMLPF also discussed the importance of agreeing a Schools Engagement Plan to support a closer working relationship between GMLPF, the Hub, CEIC and NCS to ensure that schools are able to access a more structured programme of support and that respective funding streams and contracts are more carefully aligned.



LCR Skills Show bridges gap between school pupils and apprenticeship providers

Apprenticeship providers in the region, including 26 GMLPF members, are calling the Liverpool City Region Skills Show an unequivocal success, not least for the access it gave them to thousands of school pupils.

Priceless opportunity

Although things are improving significantly, providers do still find it difficult to reach school pupils to provide information about the apprenticeships and traineeships they offer. Many school pupils still report a lack of understanding about non-academic options available to them either after GCSEs or after A-levels. For this reason, the LCR Skills Show was a priceless opportunity for many GMLPF providers – it gave them the chance to speak directly to thousands of school pupils and other individuals to inform them about apprenticeships and other training courses available.

High calibre enquiries

One of GMLPF’s newer members, FLT Training Ltd were delighted with the amount of interest they received at their stand. Terry Wilson, director said:

“We offer apprenticeships in fork lift truck so we set up a simulator at the Skills Show to give individuals a sense of what driving a fork lift truck is like. The sheer volume of enquiries we received on the day was staggering – we literally had queues at one stage.

“The event gave us lots of exposure with our target market, and many of the individuals who expressed an interest in our apprenticeships were very high calibre. We’re now in the process of matching individuals who enquired at the Skills Show against our current apprenticeship vacancies with employers in the region. All in all a very successful event which we were very pleased to attend.”

CEO of Greater Merseyside Learning Providers Federation (GMLPF), Ian Lomas echoed the views of FLT Training:

“Our members who exhibited at the Skills Show have reported great feedback. Not only did it give them a platform to publicise their programmes, but it provided the opportunity to network with other providers and obtain an insight into the latest developments in the careers sector.

“I’d like to extend my congratulations to the Apprenticeships Hub team for such a well-planned event which clearly has had a significant positive impact in the region. GMLPF and its members have their fingers crossed for another Skills Show next year.”

Over 4,000 young people, teachers, parents and residents attended the Liverpool City Region Skills Show last week, and over 100 organisations exhibited. Visitors were able to get involved in a whole range of interactive activities to help them decide what jobs and careers they may want to pursue in the future.


The Skills Show was organised by Prospects Events on behalf of The Liverpool City Region Apprenticeship Hub as part of The Employees Support in Skills Project supported by the European Social Fund/Education and Skills Funding Agency.

FLT Training Ltd provides certified forklift training and warehousing training from our fully equipped centres in Liverpool and Birmingham as well as working with partners across the UK. They help individuals gain qualifications and support both Levy and non-Levy paying employers deliver successful Apprenticeships programmes. For further information about FLT Training please contact National Business Development Director, Terry Wilson on 07483 002 538.


Ofsted NW Further Education & Skills Reference Group

GMLPF attended this meeting on behalf of members on 20 June. Bev Barlow reported on following issues emerging from Ofsted’s recent work:

Work Programme:

To date Ofsted have completed 29 full inspections of northwest providers, including 3 during this summer term. 19 were graded Outstanding or Good grades, 7 Requiring Improvements and 3 Inadequate. Ofsted have also completed 5 short inspections where all bar one were Good, the exception being one provider converted to Inadequate.

In addition, Ofsted have undertaken 4 monitoring visits to new RoATP providers on or providers who are delivering AEB for the first time. One issue that was flagged up .from a review of monitoring visits nationally is that many new providers have been slow to get systems and processes in place, and start delivery. Also they have been naïve about the scope and rigours of inspections and visits. Ofsted have encouraged all new providers of ESFA funded programmes to read and review the monitoring visit reports undertaken so far to give them a clear picture of what issues are being identified.

Too often, the following issues appear to have emerged:

  • Insufficient contact with learners; learners not being aware that they are on an Apprenticeship programme
  • Insufficient tracking and monitoring of learner progress
  • Poor leadership, management and governance
  • Provision not being sufficiently learner led

Bev Barlow will be providing more information on Ofsted’s current programme of work, current and emerging trends and touching upon the new Inspection Framework in her talk at GMLPF AGM on 10 July.


Ofsted have recently published their new privacy policy which can be found on their website. There have been a small number of GDPR related issues encountered whilst undertaking inspections however Ofsted are adopting a “business as usual” approach and that GDPR should not be an issue during inspection.

High Level Tracking

There was significant discussion around high level tracking. Many organisations at the meeting suggested that there was a lack of suitable software to support effective high level tracking of learning programmes. Ofsted are keen to see providers adopting and implementing effective and fit for purpose solutions be it electronic or paper based, that allow managers to monitor delivery; caseloads of learners, progress of individual learners and cohorts against agreed milestones, progress in terms of developing new skills and knowledge as well as new behaviours.

Other Issues

During inspections, Ofsted are still finding a number of common issues and CPD needs in providers. There is still a significant need for Prevent, Safeguarding and, increasingly, Governance training, both in terms of refresher and new training. Provider networks were encouraged to help in this regard.




Gold Standard for Myerscough’s Higher Education Programmes

Myerscough College and University Centre has achieved a prestigious GOLD award in an assessment that highlights excellence in teaching and learning across higher education providers in the UK.

The award has been made by the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in recognition of the quality of provision in the College’s foundation degree, honours degree and masters study programmes. The TEF Panel judged that Myerscough delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK.

Myerscough is one of only land-based institution in the North to achieve the gold TEF award, meaning Myerscough’s standards are among the highest in the UK.

The TEF report on University Centre Myerscough goes on to say: ‘’Myerscough provides an excellent employer engagement strategy, leading to high rates of employment after graduation.

‘’There is a  highly-valued culture of personalised learning, including small class sizes and high levels of tutor  support, resulting in the highest levels of engagement for all students in order to acquire  knowledge, skills and understanding.’’

The aim of the TEF award is to provide learners with better information about higher education institutions they may wish to study at, as well as recognising and rewarding excellent teaching which meets the needs of industry.

A rating of gold means the institution has demonstrated the highest quality teaching standards and is consistently outstanding in its outcomes for students from all backgrounds, particularly in terms of retention and progression.

Other areas of excellence highlighted by the report include:

  • Full-time student rates of progression to employment or further study are above the provider’s benchmark. Continuation rates are above the provider’s benchmark. Levels of student satisfaction are consistent with the provider’s benchmark for full-time students, and part-time student satisfaction with assessment and feedback is above the provider’s benchmark.
  • A strategic approach to staff development, including a comprehensive teaching observation and an embedded culture that facilities scholarship and research for both staff and students.
  • An outstanding approach to the development of physical and digital resources which enhance the student experience.

The TEF awards are decided by an independent panel of experts including academics, students and employer representatives. Drawing on national data, and evidence submitted by each university or college, the TEF measures excellence in three areas; teaching quality, the learning environment and the educational and professional outcomes achieved by students.

Chief Executive and Principal, Alison Robinson, said: “Our gold rating is a testament to the quality of our talented teaching staff and the excellent programmes we offer.

‘’Our students graduate not only with a qualification that is highly industry relevant, but with the skills they need to forge a successful career in their chosen field.

 “We do this by working closely with industry partners, to ensure we are preparing students who are fully ‘job ready’, across a wide range of sectors.’’

Mick Cottam, Assistant Principal Higher Education, said: ‘’Many congratulations to all those involved in the teaching and support areas for our HE provision”.

‘’This is a fantastic result for Myerscough and a reflection of the level of support we offer, as well as the student experience and the quality of our teaching.’’

‘’Learners choosing to study at University Centre Myerscough, as well as employers, can be assured that a degree programme with us is a guarantee of the very best level of education in the country.’’

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) was introduced by the Government to build evidence about the performance of the UK’s world-class higher education sector, complementing the existing Research Excellence Framework with an analysis of teaching and learning outcomes. This is the second year for these awards, which are administered by the Office for Students (OfS).

Myerscough College and University Centre offers a range of degree programmes across the land-based and sport sectors, accredited by the University of Central Lancashire. Myerscough is amongst the top UK institutions in the sector for student satisfaction – helped by exceptional resources and a unique countryside location. 98% of Myerscough degree students progress to further study or employment.