Exclusive: Further delays to controversial provider register

Exclusive: Further delays to controversial provider register

The controversial new apprenticeship provider register has been delayed, FE Week can reveal.

The first wave of applications now won’t be accepted until the end of October instead of the 3rd of next month as previously stated.

Mark Dawe, chief executive at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers was quick to contact FE Week, saying: “while we can understand the delay, we think it is incredibly unfair to not give providers a revised date. These are busy people and busy businesses who need to plan.”

David Hughes, chief executive at the Association of Colleges is also concerned. He is now, for the first time, calling for the whole programme to be delayed, saying: “The changes being proposed to apprenticeship funding and regulation are complex and risk undermining the high quality provision already in place. If there is a delay in opening the register or confirming funding rates, I would like to see a more phased implementation.

“More than anything colleges, providers and employers need certainty and confidence about the changes, with a timetable they can rely on to plan how they will continue to deliver apprenticeships. It is a tough call for the Minister, but perhaps now a delay in implementing the new arrangements would be the most prudent.”

The government wants the new register to work alongside the existing register of training organisations, widely known as the Roto.

Guidance issued in August explained how providers will have to meet strict criteria to be included on the register, which will then be used by employers looking for training for their apprentices.

FE Week exclusively revealed ahead of the guidance being published, that colleges could be excluded from accessing apprenticeship funding because of low Ofsted ratings.

This will not apply to those which are given a grade four overall, but whose apprenticeships provision is given a better rating.

The guidance also clarified that any organisation wanting a role in delivering apprenticeship training from next May will have to apply to be on the register.

At the moment, subcontractors which deliver less than £100,000 of SFA-funded provision each year do not need to apply.

FE Week was made aware of the delay after the Association of South East Colleges cancelled an event due to take place on the 3rd of October. They wrote to member colleges saying: “We have been informed that Ministers and the Skills Funding Agency have changed their timings for the release of the register.”

Update: The SFA Update bulletin, published online almost two hours of our story, subsequently said the following on the issue:

“In August, we launched our proposals for the new register of apprenticeship training providers to invite your feedback. Our proposals stated we planned to open the register for applications on Monday, 3 October. As we are now making changes to the register proposals and approach, reflecting your comments and feedback, the opening of the new register will be delayed. We will announce the revised timetable shortly.”

An almost identical message has also now been published on gov.uk.