Alder Hey Children’s Hospital

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Alder Hey Children’s Hospital

Alder Hey is an acute hospital in the Northwest supporting over 300,000 children and their families a year. They are a centre of excellence providing quality, innovation, and support for families with complex needs. I was honoured to speak with Emma Palmer, Apprenticeships Vocational Training Lead and Gerry Thomas, Head of Apprenticeships about their matrix Standard journey after being accredited in Nov 2022.

Alder Hey introduced the apprenticeships programme in 2017 and Gerry was initially brought in to review the apprenticeships and realised they needed to adapt the programme. Gerry and Emma, together, set up processes and procedures for their apprenticeship programme, providing IAG booklets for staff. After they made some improvements, Gerry believed that with their new streamlined IAG service, what they had created deserved the matrix Standard’s accreditation to maintain the level of quality. Gerry and Emma understood that the matrix Standard aligns with their passion, supporting the apprentices to become the best they can be. They used the matrix Standard as a benchmark for themselves to help maintain and improve the quality of their processes.

“I understand what the matrix Standard gives you. It is about trust; you’re providing a quality service and continuing to improve upon the good elements you already provide. We were genuinely doing this already; it wasn’t just for the matrix Standard.”

Alder Hey and the matrix Standard

After we improved the IAG service, Gerry suggested that the matrix Standard was a way to “tighten up” what they were already doing, taking note of the areas that could be enhanced to achieve the “gold standard” matrix offers.

Alder Hey described the matrix Standard as their go-to practice guide. They had a variety of different uses for the Standard within their apprenticeship programme, however, it was particularly applied to their Leadership and Management policies. What had specifically changed was the internal part of the apprenticeships, allowing the managers to understand their role’s importance. The apprentices partaking in the programme were also provided with detailed insight into what to expect before starting. The assessor recommended improving the observation forms to better capture feedback on performance.

They continued to deliver a quality of service, although, some items were brought back in such as observing assessments and working practices after going through the matrix Standard, as the benefits of pursuing this had been highlighted. Alder Hey also mentioned the matrix Standard is now a regular item on their agenda for staff and internal meetings, highlighting the use and benefit of working with the standard.

What difference has the matrix accreditation made to your organisation?

“Anyone who knows the matrix Standard will be aware that it is not just handed out, you must earn it through hard work and dedication. That is exactly what people see when your organisation is accredited with matrix. It elevates your profile, raising the perception of your organisation becoming as respected as a university.”

This new sense of value has been adopted by the apprentices, as word of mouth spreads more referrals have come in, leading to a change in the quality of apprentices pursuing the challenging but worthwhile apprenticeship qualification. During a National Apprenticeship Week Open Day, the matrix Standard was presented on the stand promoting the programme. This became a talking point for enquiries which prompted more referrals.

Working with the Assessor

“Steve was fantastic. He offered us as much support as we needed. He understood our business well as we shared everything with him. Before we had even met, we knew exactly what was needed for the assessment. He was very professional.”

“Steve was fantastic. He offered us as much support as we needed. He understood our business well as we shared everything with him. Before we had even met, we knew exactly what was needed for the assessment. He was very professional.”

What is next for Alder Hey?

They see potential in applying the Standard to other areas of the hospital to make them more effective in the future. Mindful that they are a small team, they believe the matrix Standard will support them to grow.

“It’s a fantastic tool to underpin the services to become the best. The matrix Standard is all about achieving your full potential and supporting others to reach theirs. It is a blueprint for success, keeping your organisation in line, to make sure everything you do is quality driven. It also helps with future planning to better understand how you can improve your overall success rate.”

Since being accredited they feel part of the matrix Standard Community with a shared understanding and respect that this is something that represents an achievement of which they are proud and can learn from others.

Thanks to Geraldine Thomas and Emma Palmer for sharing your matrix Standard journey. It was great to understand the impact the matrix Standard has on everyone within the organisation and the beneficial impact it has had on your apprentices.

matrix Standard is the Department for Education’s (DfE) standard for ensuring the delivery of high-quality information, advice and guidance (IAG)


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