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This report sets out a ‘state of the nation’ for education and training in the 15 professions we regulate.

It is based on our assessments of education providers and programmes in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 academic years.

Through this report we have focused on key areas linked to the quality of education for programmes leading to HCPC registration, and key challenges faced by the sector.

Our key findings are:

  • There is a strong quality assurance mindset at education providers, and a focus on the quality of new and existing education programmes was prevalent in all of our assessment activities.

  • The sector is outward facing, with their eyes open to current challenges and initiatives from within and outside of the sector, such as cost of living, industrial action, emerging technology, and an aging population.

    Challenges that directly or indirectly affect delivery of programmes were often well thought through, and flexibly considered in line with established standards and frameworks (such as our education standards).

  • Strong partnerships are integral to the sustainability and quality of programmes. We found that good partnership working is underpinned by formal arrangements which clearly defined objectives, expectations, and responsibilities, which are supported by well-defined engagement frameworks.

  • The pipeline of future professionals has grown. Education providers recognised the key role they plan in suppling the UK workforce with highly skilled individuals who focus on the needs of service users, and have overcome challenges presented, often in innovative ways which align with our flexible standards.

    However, there are recruitment challenges to some professions, so increasing programme capacity alone is not the only solution to developing a sustainable workforce.

  • We worked with education providers to identify the challenges which needed more thought and attention to increase capacity across professions and nations / regions.

    Challenges included growing practice-based learning opportunities, education provider resources, and growing the pool of academic staff.

    Through our assessments, we were confident that education providers had grown programme capacity in a reasonable way, considering broader sector and external constraints.

  • We increasingly hear from sector stakeholders that practice-based learning capacity is being reached.

    Through our assessments, education providers were able to show us how they have secured capacity for additional learners, by driving forward innovations in practice-based learning, simulation in practice, and smart timetabling.

    Even considering innovations in practice-based learning, there is a finite pool of practice opportunities, which is a key challenge for the sector to consider moving forwards.

  • All education providers use data in some way to inform their operations, whether that be applicant and learner data to inform widening participation and learner support, financial data to plan, and / or other data sources and uses.

    However, there were problems with feedback fatigue, which impacted internal education provider feedback mechanisms (such as module feedback), and external mechanisms (such as the National Education and Training Survey).

  • The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on education providers and learners, and responses to the pandemic were often used as a catalyst for positive and long-lasting change to approaches for education and practice-based learning.

    We saw good innovation in areas such as delivery of teaching, practice-learning environments, simulation, and learner support, which aligned with our standards.

  • We approve programmes at HEIs and many other types of organisations. Due to the commonalities and supporting structures present for HEIs, non-HEIs often needed to work harder to meet our standards and show continued good performance.

  • Our revised SOPs became effective in September 2023, and from this date, education providers needed to deliver the revised SOPs to all new learners. The revised SOPs set out what is needed for safe and effective professional practice.

    All education providers assessed demonstrated alignment with the revised SOPs, and showed us how they reviewed their programmes to do this. This was pleasing to see, as it provides a tangible outcome of our review exercise, linked to our public protection duties.

  • We found that education providers who do not run existing HCPC-approved programmes, and / or particularly innovative or complex programmes, led to longer assessments against our standards.

    Education providers should be aware of this, and ensure they plan regulatory engagement in good time to meet our standards by their intended start date.

This report will be helpful for the education sector, and those with an interest in the education and training of the health and care workforce.

The key findings and detailed thematic analysis can be used to inform thinking about challenges facing the education and broader health and care sector.


Our regulatory approach to the quality of education and training

We assess education providers and new education programmes to ensure they are ‘properly organised’ to deliver education, and train learners to be safe, effective and fit to practice when they join the HCPC Register.

We focus on whether education providers and programmes meet our standards of education and training (SET). The SETs are outcome focused, to ensure those who complete programmes meet our requirements for registration – namely our standards of proficiency and standards of conduct, performance and ethics.

This means that we do not set specific ‘inputs’ such as the academic entry requirements for programmes, or the number of practice hours required. We instead ask education providers to explain how their programmes are set up, and how their approaches enable them to meet our education standards.

We are confident that we deliver flexible, intelligent and data-led education quality assurance activities. Compared to our previous education quality assurance model, our current model (introduced in September 2021) enables a more effective assessment of education providers and programmes to ensure they meet our standards.

For example, ongoing assessment of education provider performance is now much more robust. Our previous model focused on change and was concentrated at the programme level, which meant we could not easily understand the whole picture at each education provider.

This risked under-reporting of challenges and successes, and inconsistency in assessments, giving a partial view of quality. The current model requires reflection and information at the institution level linked to performance, and how our standards are maintained.

Relationships between HCPC and approved education providers are functioning well in most cases. We see candour through our assessments, and a willingness to share problems and solutions, along with successes. This is a good indicator that quality assurance practices are working well within education providers, and that HCPC is seen as a trusted partner to help improve the quality of education.


Considering future challenges

Further challenges lie ahead, particularly with:

  • learner number expansions continuing at pace for many professions, to meet the needs of the population; and
  • diversification of education and training routes, including a marked increase in work-based routes.

We are playing our part in responding to challenges, ensuring we are working as far upstream as possible to understand what is happening in the health and care and education sectors. We will continue to share data and insight to help our stakeholders understand the current picture of education and training, and to help them understand our standards, to ensure public protection.

There is a lot of work that needs to be done by our stakeholders to meet future challenges, and we are confident that the education sector is well positioned to lead and enable developments, whilst maintaining high quality in education and training. We will continue to play our important regulatory role to ensure this is the case, take action to support education providers and others, and to prevent harm when our high regulatory standards are not met.

Tudalen wedi'i diweddaru ymlaen: 17/04/2024