ESFA calls for funding rules feedback to make them ‘clearer’

The Education and Skills Funding Agency has asked employers and providers for feedback on the way it provides apprenticeship funding rules information.

The agency called volunteers to take part in a survey which aims to make sure its funding rules are “clearer, easier to use” as well to learn more about its users.

It follows recent mystery no-notice audits carried out by the agency as well as separate research by the Department for Education into whether apprenticeship delivery is being adjusted to account for apprentices’ prior learning.

A number of providers told FE Week last month they were given two days’ notice to hand over up to 100 apprentice files by ESFA staff. After two days working through the files, they left without taking away any of the material.

It is believed these searches have been prompted by concerns at the unpublished results of the qualification achievement rates for 2017/18, as well as its investigation into disgraced apprenticeship firm Aspire Achieve Advance (3aaa).

Meanwhile, the DfE has also asked suppliers to research if and how employers and providers are adapting training and the associated costs to take into account the prior learning of apprentices.

Today, the ESFA called employers, employer-providers and training to contribute to its research, which will add to the “insight to the user feedback we have already gathered”.

Respondents are being asked to disclose if their organisation is currently paying the apprenticeship levy, how many times they have consulted the funding rules in the past twelve months and if the information available in its website is understandable.

They are also encouraged to provide further comments on how the agency could improve their experience.

The survey is open until March 14.

DfE’s research into high prices for apprentices with prior learning is due to start in the week commencing April 1. The final report will be issued on August 30.

The launch of ESFA’s survey also follow National Audit Office’s report which said the ESFA has ‘limited assurance the 20 per cent off-the-job-training rule is being complied with, and that it “does not yet have an effective way of identifying where apprentices are routinely receiving less training than they should”.