It’s amazing and alarming how quickly the past three years have flown by.  Even the past year with its major challenges has shot by in a flash.

In January 2021 we were assessed against the Matrix Standard in respect of the Information Advice and Guidance we give to all Stakeholders within the business.  This ranges from learners to employers, to partners and suppliers.  

It is the international quality standard for organisations that deliver information, advice and/or guidance (IAG). Either as their sole purpose or as part of their service offering.

The Matrix Standard is the Department for Education’s (DfE) standard for ensuring the quality of the delivery of high-quality information, advice and guidance. The DfE supports the Matrix Standard as the quality framework for accrediting information, advice and guidance contracts including the National Careers Service, its subcontractors and other services delivered on behalf of the Education & Skills Funding Agency.

It helps us to improve our services by benchmarking against best practice and it offers accreditation to those that meet the full standard.  

Accreditation is assessed every three years, and for us, this happened in January.

We were excited to take part in the assessment, as we identified this would be a good measure of how we as a business have performed with all stakeholders during the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic.  It also would be a good measure of what we have put in place to develop and improve since our most recent OFSTED inspection in January 2020.  

Over the past year, we have had to make dramatic changes to the planning and delivery of our programmes, to keep learners engaged and to help the business move forwards with new learners.  All delivery is now online, with all tutors undertaking remote learning sessions with learners, and managers engaging with new employers across Teams or Zoom.  

It is always good to be assessed independently.  As far as we are aware (by undertaking surveys) we have managed to keep all stakeholders engaged, BUT the true measure of success is the feedback that has been independently gained.  

Two measures of success for us were:

As part of the process for Matrix, the assessor had a full two days, interviewing both internal and external stakeholders within Straight A Training.  Without fail, all stakeholders selected for the interview met with the commitment to discuss their experience working with us.  The plans for the two days went without a hitch and provided the Assessor with valuable insight into our provision.    

The following are comments highlighted by the Assessor:

Throughout this Accreditation Review, Straight A demonstrated how its IAG practices are equipping its learners with the skills, behaviours, attitudes and strategies to enable them to choose the right course and thrive and achieve, with positive progression in their careers and to further learning. The IAG service is particularly helping learners to stay positive and motivated through the covid-19 pandemic. Implementation of quality IAG throughout the learner journey is helping to maintain high performance against key measures and providing a solid foundation for Straight A as it and the sectors it works with emerge from the covid-19 lockdown.’

 

Apprentices particularly praised the IAG support they had received during lockdown. Many hospitality and other learners have been furloughed, and many are not originally from the UK and lack local family support, leading to potential issues around mental health and isolation. All learners described how their tutors were always available for support and had offered a flexible service through lockdown, including enabling learners to complete more quickly those units that do not require a presence in work. In addition to the individual support from tutors, company-wide initiatives such as safeguarding quizzes and a wellbeing survey (with very positive responses) have kept learners engaged and motivated, as well as ensuring they prioritise their own wellbeing.’

 

Learners praised the long-term view taken by Straight A tutors regarding learners’ career progression. Several learners described starting at level 2 (in many cases with limited English or little prior educational attainment), and how tutors had worked with them to examine career pathways that match their interests and goals. Many learners are now studying supervisory and management qualifications to match the progress they have obtained at work as a result of their initial apprenticeship with Straight A, with staff methodically contacting completers to identify further opportunities. As well as individual success stories, there is robust data to show positive progression for learners across Straight A, with 70% progressing to higher-paid roles or roles with more responsibility.’

 

In the situation we are all currently in, regarding Covid-19, including lockdown and uncertainty for all, it is motivating and rewarding for our team to be recognised in this way.  To receive feedback that is independent and gained as part of a recognised accreditation gives our team the ability to develop and grow further as part of our post-Covid growth strategy.  To build on this, strengthen our brand and develop our strategy for continuous improvement with all stakeholders is a key objective that will take us into a positive future.