There has been some confusion about the off-the-job training funding rule since it was introduced for all apprenticeship starts on frameworks and standards since May 2017, particularly how to calculate the minimum 20 per cent hours.
The ESFA has worked hard to help providers understand what counts as eligible activities and the associated calculation of the minimum hours, by publishing additional guidance and myth busting documents.
Last Friday afternoon the ESFA updated the guidance, and to their credit it includes a helpful spreadsheet which employers can use with providers to agree a compliant delivery model.
Unfortunately, however, paragraph 69 has left employers and providers scratching their heads, as it says: “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.”
The reference to a 30 hour per week cap in the calculation has never been said before. In fact, in the first version of the guidance there was even an example based on a 40 hour cap.
But far from being a mistake or even a change, when FE Week asked the Department for Education for clarification they said: “To be clear the published guidance does not contradict ESFA apprenticeship funding rules”.
Accordingly, providers have begun revisiting training plans and associated commitment statements, recalculating the minimum off-the-job hours.
One person on the ESFA message board FE Connect wrote: “The 30 hours cap will significantly reduce the number of off-the-job hours required for our learners, some by around 100 hours.”
Another wrote about the 30 hour cap: “I’ve managed to create and negotiate a plan with senior managers to put this to delivery staff, learners and employers.”
When I asked the Director of Apprenticeships at the ESFA, Keith Smith, about the 30 hour cap in a question and answer session at FE Week’s Annual Apprenticeship Conference, he agreed there was now a “contradiction” between the funding rules and this updated guidance.
He told delegates the ESFA would provide further clarification shortly, within a few days.
So my advice (at 18:54 on 28 March 2018) would be to ignore the latest guidance that includes reference to a 30 hour minimum calculation and wait for another ESFA clarification.