A GROUP of schools which has its headquarters in York has been awarded top marks for its apprenticeship programmes.

Ebor Academy Trust attracted “significant progress” in all three judgement areas from Ofsted inspectors - a rare achievement only shared by between five and ten per cent of training providers across the country. Gail Brown, Ebor’s chief executive, said Ebor is currently the only training provider to achieve the maximum award for programmes that upskill teaching assistants, early years educators and school business professionals.

The apprenticeships initiative, which makes use of the apprenticeship levy that all large companies have to pay is open to workers of all ages, not just young people and free for both schools and individuals taking the courses.

Gail said: “This is the best possible outcome and the whole team is thrilled.

“So much work has been put into making our apprenticeship programmes the best they can be and I am delighted the effort have been recognised at the highest level.”

Initially the apprenticeships were offered to Ebor staff in the 24 mainly primary schools in the trust, across York, Selby, on the Yorkshire Coast and in the East Riding and Hull. Since receiving main provider status, however, Ebor can now work freely with local authority maintained schools as well as other academies and trusts.

Sue Hinchcliffe, director of apprenticeships at Ebor, said: “Apprenticeships have moved on considerably from what they used to be. They are increasingly recognised as presenting exciting opportunities for both apprentice and employer and right now there are government cash incentives, worth up to £3,000 for each apprentice taken on. I encourage schools interested in getting involved to contact me to find out more.

“Ofsted’s monitoring visit became a seal of approval for the best apprenticeships programmes across the education sector – for the ultimate benefit of all staff and the children and young people they work with.

“Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to access training and for developing staff of any age and can be adapted to meet schools’ different needs.”

In its report, Ofsted inspectors said: “Leaders plan an ambitious curriculum that enables apprentices to develop significant and very relevant new knowledge, skills and behaviours. Employers speak highly of the positive contribution that apprentices make in their school.

“Leaders work closely with headteachers to ensure that apprentices benefit from a well-integrated programme of on- and off-the-job training.”