Apprenticeship payments system breakdown finally 'resolved'

The government claims to have finally fixed its malfunctioning apprenticeship payments reporting system, more than two weeks after it was first reported.

FE Week reported last week that the ESFA had missed its own deadline to repair the IT issues, which had prompted numerous exasperated complaints on the FE Connect site from April 10.

We ran a story on the issue six days later, at which point the ESFA promised a fix by April 18. That deadline was missed.

But an encouraging message appeared on FE Connect yesterday.

“We resolved the issues with reporting on Friday, April 20,” a spokesperson said.

“Some providers have raised queries and we are following these up with individuals where necessary and we will use this feedback to improve future reporting. We welcome user feedback and will continue to work with providers on our reporting.”

This was followed by a comment from user Casper Varney, who asked for more specific confirmation that certain technical issues including with data returns for 2017 to 2018 had been fixed.

No response from the ESFA itself followed, but a Department for Education was unequivocal on the situation today, informing FE Week that “the issues have been resolved”.

It comes after the agency launched an “urgent investigation” last week into the problems.

This wasn’t the first time the service had gone down; there were other issues with the payment system last December.

“The people behind the apprenticeship payments system have decided to add a second row of data now in the period and payments report for the erroneous ones made last month,” said the original complaint on FE Connect.

“The first row appears to take the full period seven amount back and the second row what looks like the correct year to date payment however I have yet to go through in fine detail. Just a warning for anyone else interested.

“I have actually found one apprentice with 27 programme aim rows!!! What the hell is going on??????????”

On April 17 another said that providers were “badly in need of some serious reassurance”, adding “please help”.

“We are currently in the final testing stage of an updated report that will fix the issue of duplicate rows and also fix many of the known outstanding issues we have been working behind the scenes to improve,” said an agency spokesperson on April 17.