Schools & LAs
August 23, 2023

Learning from QA audits

My professor father taught me early on that learning is a violent act. It can be traumatic when cherished notions are challenged and must be suspended in order to embrace alternative ways of thinking and being. Hard choices need to be made about what constitutes truth and reality in light of these alternatives. That’s hard going and can violate the self in fairly profound ways. Businesses and schools are not immune to this kind of learning curve.

 But this is not a violation without compassion or utility.QA Auditors want you to succeed, all the while holding you accountable to stiff protocols, standards, and government guidance. We do very well in audits, but maybe that’s because we’ve learned a lot from ours and have made some difficult choices. It’s worthwhile, even necessary for growth, to destroy in order to create.


Lessons learned

As an alternative education provider (AEP), we are a business that thinks of ourselves as a school. So we’ve always been proud of the depth and breadth of our policies. The harsh news we received a few years ago was that our policies didn’t really match our online provision – they were more attuned to bricks & mortar schools. One summer later…, we’d rewritten all policies and now they are back to being a hallmark of our offering.

As a part-time, blended AEP online we provide from 1 to 16 hours per week for any student. That means we only teach the subjects we’recommissioned to teach. However, we were pulled on not offering Career Guidance to all of our students. Explanations that we’re not like general contractors building a house – we’re the plumbers or the electricians – we do what we’re contracted to do and not every client asks for PSHE – simply fell on deaf ears.Should we really be expected to provide what we’re not paid to deliver?

Taking a step back, we realised that we could create a self-study Careers course for all our students and whenever questions arose,our teachers could deal with them. Our Careers course has loads of information,links, workbooks, and utilises a fantastic Careers site ( that even delves into GCSE choices.

The ability to help every student with the issues that have barred them from learning is a trademark of Apricot. But,working online with selective mutes was particularly slow-going. Yes… there area multitude of ways to communicate in our online classrooms and these are heavily utilised. But, that wasn’t really going to help these students reintegrate easily or successfully. The audit suggestion that we no longer accept selective mutes spurred us to get better equipped to teach them. Enter a Speech and Language Therapist. We spent a few weeks learning strategies for how, in an online environment, we could help our selective mutes to speak. Lo and behold, they now all talk in lessons and at home with friends and family.It seems like a miracle, but it was just wilful on our part and hard work by our teachers that has paid off in spades.

Pressure, pressure, pressure… that contributes significantly to the high anxieties our children experience regularly. We found a few ways to relieve it. One auditor suggested that instead of working on weaknesses to create strengths, we might better concentrate on the talents of each student and making them strengths. This was a revelation that has found its way into our staff training as well. While we will always recognise where students need the most help, now we are proactive in helping them to realise where they are really talented and concentrating on making those talents into strengths. .Again, we got trained up in how to recognise talents and worked hard at helping our students recognise and articulate their talents for themselves. Game-changer:The rise in confidence, and therefore resilience and progress, has been a real paradigm shift for us and our students

 So, while I don’t want to sound like the Gordon Gekko of education…, violation is good for learning. Lessons are hard – they take time,energy, personnel, money. But it’s the only way to become a better person or a better company/school.

The pay-off

The provider demonstrates a clear moral purpose and sense of mission. It specialises in reaching students whose challenges and overlapping needs act as barriers to learning and progress. The provider is inclusive and its desire to engage and support young people in being the best that they can be, is a thread that runs throughout the wide range of areas scrutinised in this QA. The provider works hard to create a nurturing space that holdsmarginalised students into learning.

A real focus on pedagogy supports teachers in the development of teaching skills that engage students in active learning in a virtual environment. This commitment to professional development and the high retention rate of teachers at Apricot, should give commissioning schools confidence in the quality of provision.

It was readily apparent that Apricot “go the extra mile”in order to motivate their students. Learning materials are lively and attractive; there are lots of interactive resources; and there is always a very“human touch”.

Commitment to student progress, care for student welfare,tight organisation and imaginative approaches to learning characterise Apricot.It is led by dedicated professionals who love what they do and are proud of what they are achieving. Learners with Apricot get a very good deal!

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