Find your greatness with an apprenticeship – Meet Josha Bartholomew and Karl Gilbert

9th March 2018

In our latest “find your greatness with an apprenticeship” series, which celebrates National Apprenticeship Week #NAW2018, we hear from apprentices and their Headteachers at Little Plumstead CE VA Primary School and Cecil Gowing Infant School, both in Norfolk.

These two case studies highlight the reasons why these Norfolk schools offered Apprenticeship opportunities and show that they have been a success.

Case Study One: Little Plumstead CE VA Primary School

Joshua Bartholomew, Specialist Support Teaching and Learning

Why did you choose to do an Apprenticeship over other education/training programmes?

“I prefer a more practical element to my learning.”

How has the Apprenticeship benefited you so far?

“It has allowed me to develop my skills as a teaching assistant in a working environment. It provided me with the support I need to progress my career.”

Do you think you would like to have a career in this area?

“Very much so. It has been an area I have wanted to get into for a long time and the apprenticeship allows me to do this.  The longer I continue in the job the more I love it.”

Sonia Innes, Headteacher

Did you feel supported through the whole process?  If so, where did you seek support from?
“We sought support from the training provider and HR to ensure we could issue the correct contracts.  It was a relatively straight forward process.”

What would you say was the biggest hurdle in taking on an apprentice and how did you overcome it?

“The appointment process through HR was tricky due to trying to use the apprenticeship pay point.  This was early in the process of using apprentices in schools.  We also had to redraft the usual job description for a teaching assistant to match the expectations of an apprenticeship.”

Has having an apprentice changed the school in any way?

“Yes, it’s changed the range of ages in the school and has brought a fresh perspective to the possibility of in-school training.  We would definitely have another.”

What would you say to a school who weren’t sure whether to take on an apprentice? “It’s certainly something worth considering and is an opportunity to re-evaluate learning and CPD in schools.”

Case Study Two: Cecil Gowing Infant School

Karl Gilbert, Specialist Support Teaching and Learning

What are your main duties in the role?

“Supporting the teachers during learning and supervising the outdoor area.  I am learning to carry out observations, help to move children’s learning on and offer ideas for improvements with resources.”

How has the Apprenticeship benefited you so far?

“I have learnt a lot about the education system and the importance of teaching young people.”

Was it easy to get started in your Apprenticeship?

“It was not as easy as I had expected but together with the school we worked through it.”

Do you think you would like to have a career in this area?

“Yes hopefully. I would like to continue in this school.  It is a great experience to work in a school environment.”

Isabel Stubbs, Headteacher

Were you aware of the apprenticeship levy when you decided to take on an apprentice?

“Yes, I knew our school paid it, but I did not know much about it.”

How did you find out what you needed to do to get an apprentice?

“Karl had been on placement at our school linked to a course he was completing at sixth form and asked if we had apprenticeship places.  I had no knowledge so tried to find out more.  I contacted another Headteacher who I found out had taken on an apprentice the year before and his experience seemed positive, so I contacted Apprenticeships Norfolk. They were brilliant but I did have difficulty finding out further details as it was a period of transition in moving from the old apprenticeship funding rules to the levy rules.”

Did you find any aspects difficult? Frustrating?

“I did find it difficult to gain information about pay scales, timescales, college, contracts and the 20% off the job was incredibly frustrating to understand.  I wanted to support our apprentices as best we could and I kept them informed of each step.  Supporting the well-being of all our staff is a high priority in our school and as Karl and Eleanor are so young, we wanted to provide them with a secure environment where they feel able to discuss any problems they are experiencing.  The difficulties we found in supporting them was that we were not clear ourselves about the process.”

Has having an apprentice changed the school in any way?

“Karl and Eleanor are a great asset to our school. They are both bubbly, enthusiastic and conscientious.  Karl is adding purpose to our learning in the outdoor area for our Reception children and Eleanor is providing extra support for our pupils who need it in Year 2.  Also, our staff have welcomed them with a feeling of caring and responsibility.”

What would you say to a school who are not sure whether to take on an apprentice?

“The value added to the school is great.  If you get the right person and get the right support the apprentice will grow and you will get the right result.

“However, you need to be realistic in terms of the resource required to support the apprentice (especially if they are young) and to work with the training provider to ensure that the learning process is as clear and smooth as it can be for the apprentice.  From the outset, agree with the training provider about what the 20% off the job training will be and how it will be organised.  You should also gain a clear decision from the training provider, at the beginning, what the length of the apprenticeship will be (i.e. the length is not extended part way through the process, which will obviously effect budgets).

“I wanted to give the opportunity to two apprentices rather than one so they could support each other through the process.  I would recommend this method if possible to other schools. 

“Also, I believe it is very important to find the apprentice who fits best with your school and the role you are offering and also be thinking of the future for those apprentices.  Be prepared that the process will take up some of your time and the staff who are mentoring.  Understanding the process may have been frustrating at times but for us it has been successful and we are delighted with our apprentices.  I believe as the system is clarified, the difficulties of the process should reduce.  I would definitely like to offer further apprenticeships in the future but it will depend on my budget.”

Since gathering information for the two case studies above, Educator Solutions HR Services (not-for-profit trading enterprise, wholly owned by Norfolk County Council) have developed clear guidance regarding what to pay apprentices and a revised Apprenticeship contract will also be available in the next few weeks, to further support schools looking to take on an apprentice.  In addition, the DfE have provided employer guidance on understanding the 20% off-the-job training.

Join our Get up and Grow campaign to raise awareness of the importance of apprenticeships to our organisations and economies and to help increase the number and uptake of apprenticeships across the region!

We are committed to helping to support the delivery of apprenticeship training; making sure that the apprenticeship levy money is spent in the most effective way. Working together is the best way to achieve this!

To share your apprenticeship stories get in touch with Emma Moore, Senior HR Advisor at the East of England LGA on / 01284 758326

Find out more about the Get up and Grow campaign at 

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