ESFA appears to have changed the apprenticeship off-the-job calculation – again

The government appears to have changed the off-the-job (OTJ) training rule again, and is now telling providers they should cap the 20 per cent calculation based on 30 hours per week.

The unexpected change, made in an ESFA ‘apprenticeship off the-job training policy background and examples’ document released last Thursday, contradicts the official apprenticeship funding rules for 2018/19.

“To attract government funding at least 20 per cent of the apprentice’s paid hours, over the planned duration of the training period within the apprenticeship (for standards this is called the practical period, which ends at the gateway for end-point assessment), must be spent on off-the-job training,” the official rules say.

ESFA official apprenticeship funding rules

They make no reference to a 30 hour cap in the calculation and providers have been including all “paid hours”.

Now, the ESFA has told providers in this latest document and associated spreadsheet: “For funding purposes 30 hours represents a full-time role and should be used in all calculations, even if the apprentice works more than 30 hours. Part-time working should be proportional, using the formula in the apprenticeship funding rules.”

ESFA updated OTJ guidance

The “significant” change, which is being discussed on an online forum managed by the ESFA called FE Connect, has baffled various people in the sector.

“In view of what I think is a change and not a clarification of policy I think most providers will need to review the OTJ requirement for all spprentices,” said FE consultant Martin West.

Steve Hewitt, an MIS and funding consultant for FE Associates, added: “Surely it’s the guidance note that’s wrong, not *EVERYTHING* ESFA HAVE SAID OR DONE FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS???

“They’re a week early for an April Fools’ gag…”

FE Week has sought clarification from the ESFA and is awaiting comment.

The agency had already confused many in the sector with regards to the off-the-job training rule last year after it made another calculation change.

Under original rules for starts from 1 May 2017, the calculation for the 20 per cent off-the-job minimum was based on a 52 week year and included annual leave. But the ESFA changed this in August 2018 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.

In an attempt to combat confusion, the DfE published an off-the-job training mythbusters document in January.

Apprenticeship funding rules for 2019/20, for starts from August 1, have not yet been published.