The Department for Education has published new guidance on the controversial 20 per cent off-the-job training rule for apprentices, which attempts to bust certain “myths”.

The policy, which requires apprentices to spend a fifth of their week on activities related to their course that are different to their normal working duties, has split the FE sector since its introduction in 2015.

Many have complained that the rule is the single biggest barrier to apprenticeship recruitment, but others view it as a vital part of the apprentices’ development.

A lot of opposition to the policy has come as a result of confusion about exactly what the rule entails.

One area of potential confusion is likely have come from a recent calculation change to the policy, for example.

Under original rules, the 20 per cent off-the-job was based on a 52 week year and included annual leave. But the Education and Skills Funding Agency changed this in August and stated that statutory leave should be “deducted when calculating the requirement for all apprentices who begin their programme from 1 August 2018”.

It means that the calculation to determine off-the-job hours is different for apprentices who started before August 1, 2018, compared to those who started after.

To combat confusion, the DfE has today published an off-the-job training mythbusters document. It doesn’t, however, include clarification about the calculation.

One “myth”, according to the guidance, is that off-the-job training “must be delivered by a provider in a classroom, at an external location”.

“This is not true,” the document states.

“Off-the-job training can be delivered in a flexible way. This can be at the apprentice’s usual place of work, or at an external location. It can include for example, the teaching of theory, practical training and writing assignments.”

English and maths counts towards the 20 per cent requirement for off-the-job training is another “myth”.

“Apprenticeships are about developing occupational competency and they are designed on the basis that the apprentice already has the required level (level 2) of English and maths,” the document states.

“Training for English and maths must be on top of the 20 per cent off-the-job training requirement.”

Some in the sector also believe that off-the-job training can be done in the apprentice’s own time, which again is untrue, according to the guidance.

“An apprenticeship is a work-based programme so all off-the-job training must take place within the apprentice’s paid contracted hours,” it says.

“If planned off-the-job training is unable to take place, it must be rearranged. Apprentices may choose to spend additional time training outside paid hours, but this must not be required to complete the apprenticeship.”

The government has continually reiterated that the 20 per cent off-the-job training rule is here to stay, despite protests.

But it has promised to “listen to what’s working, what the challenges are and continue to review how the reforms are working”.

You can read the full mythbuster document here.