RTPI hits out after planning apprenticeship degree scheme hits snag

Universities will not be able to recruit students for a proposed new degree-level planning apprenticeship scheme that was due to start this September after the public body responsible for approving such programmes rejected its assessment plan, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has said.

Kensington and Chelsea: council forms part of 'Trailblazer Group'
Kensington and Chelsea: council forms part of 'Trailblazer Group'

The Institute for Apprenticeships’ (IfA), a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Education, is tasked with developing and maintaining criteria for the approval of apprenticeship standards and assessment plans.

The government approved the principle of a Chartered Town Planning Apprenticeship in May 2017, developed by the Chartered Town Planner Apprenticeship Trailblazer Employer Group with support from the RTPI.

According to the RTPI, the IfA endorsed the scheme’s apprenticeship standard in January this year, which sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours required of successful apprentices to be eligible for chartered membership of the RTPI.

But in April, the IfA "cited a number of concerns in the assessment method – the end-point assessment plan (EPA) – and did not approve it", the RTPI said.

It added that the assessment method is based on its current assessment of professional competence for admitting chartered members.

The trailblazer group has lodged an appeal against the IfA’s decision and is expecting a ruling in the summer, the RTPI said.

According to the RTPI, the setback "means that universities will not be able to recruit students as planned this September". It said there is "strong interest for the chartered town planning degree apprenticeship, with over 20 employers and six universities working to recruit this September".

Philip Ridley, co-chair of the Trailblazer Group, said: "This clear misunderstanding by the IfA of the role of chartered bodies in assessing competence and the importance for employers of quality assured professional qualifications puts delivery of the government’s agenda for housing and infrastructure at risk.

"Employers urgently need to take on chartered town planner apprentices to help deliver the country’s place-shaping agenda and especially younger people who are the future of the profession. Government reforms of apprenticeships were intended to put employers in the driving seat – this decision shows that we are still passengers!"

Victoria Hills, RTPI chief executive, added: "There is widespread concern in the built environment professions that the IfA lacks good understanding of the role of chartered professional bodies and their well established and rigorous assessment methods.

"We will work to seek policy change within the IfA that recognises the role of professional bodies in setting standards of competence and assessment methodology."

An IfA spokeswoman said:  "The chartered town planner apprenticeship trailblazer group has submitted an appeal regarding the chartered town planning degree apprenticeship. 

"We are currently considering this appeal and will respond to the trailblazer group in accordance with our appeals procedure."

The Trailblazer Group consists of Suffolk Coastal and Waveney District Councils (co-chair); CBRE (co-chair); Brighton and Hove City Council; Edgars Ltd; ELG Planning; Indigo Planning; the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; Savills; Sedgemoor District Council; Sport England; South Cambridgeshire District Council; St Albans City & District Council; Thurrock Council; and Winchester City Council.


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