The government has this evening released a package of measures that it hopes will help apprenticeship training providers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It also applies to apprentices, employers, end-point assessment organisations and external quality assurance providers.
Here are the key points from the guidance:
1. No funding support
The government appears to offer no funding support for apprenticeship training providers during the crisis.
Its guidance says providers will only continue to be paid “retrospectively for the training they have delivered and can evidence”.
Government policy “does not allow payment for services in advance of delivery,” it claimed.
The ESFA added that it “reserves the right to recover funding which was claimed for and paid to the training provider, but for which the training provider was found not to be eligible”.
2. Face-to-face end-point assessments can be rescheduled or ‘modified’
End-point assessment organisations and external quality assurance providers are encouraged to engage and agree where remote assessment can replace face-to-face assessment, or where a simulated environment is to be used.
Apprentices who are deemed ready for assessment, and cannot be assessed due to COVID-19 related issues, will be able to have their EPA rescheduled. Where there is a “specified time limit for EPA post gateway”, a further pause of 12 weeks is allowable.
Apprentices whose gateway is being delayed are allowed a break in learning, with an extension to the assessment timeframe.
3. Breaks in learning rule softened – but providers still won’t be paid
Funding rules currently state that a break in learning must be initiated by the apprentice.
The government will now allow employers and training providers, temporarily, to also report and initiate a break in learning where the interruption is greater than four weeks.
Training providers will not receive payments for learners who are on breaks in learning.
4. Go to Treasury if you’re struggling financially
The guidance states that where the COVID-19 outbreak results in loss of income due to ceased or reduced delivery of training, training providers “should consider their eligibility and apply for the wide range of financial support that HM Treasury has already announced for businesses”.
5. Apprentices made redundant to find a new employer within 12 weeks
Where apprentices are furloughed (granted a leave of absence) or placed on unpaid leave, employers and training providers have been urged to consider whether a break in learning would be appropriate.
Where apprentices are made redundant, it is the DfE’s ambition that they will be supported to find alternative employment, and continue their apprenticeship within 12 weeks.
The training provider “must support the apprentice to find another employer” where redundancies take place.
In instances where a significant number of apprentices are made redundant, the ESFA said it will attempt to provide “exceptional practical support to the apprentices and training providers to secure alternative employers for the individuals”.
6. ‘Distance learning’ encouraged
The government is “encouraging and supporting employers, and training and assessment providers, to make use of distance-learning tools wherever possible and practicable to do so”.
7. Arrangements for disrupted training delivery in March
Where training has been delivered this month, but a break in learning has begun, or is expected to start before the end of March, to ensure payment for these apprentices, training providers have been told to:
include these learners in their March ILR submission as on programme
record, retain and submit evidence in the usual way
record a break in learning in their April ILR submission
ensure that these learners are not recorded as permanently withdrawn from their apprenticeship, by entering the ‘Completion status’ field of the ILR as ‘6’, denoting that the learner has temporarily withdrawn from learning due to an agreed break in learning
The DfE makes clear that training, which cannot be delivered in March, but for which the training provider receives payment, should be delivered within the “remainder of the apprenticeship, and the previously agreed total cost of the apprenticeship, before the planned end-date”.
Where the training is not completed, the ESFA “reserves the right to recover payment”.
8. Employers urged not to pause or stop payments to providers for March
During March, levy-paying employers “should not use the apprenticeship service to ‘pause’ or ‘stop’ payments to the training provider, where some training has been delivered in March”, the DfE says.
Doing so will result in the training provider not receiving any payment for these apprentices.
9. Arrangements for April and beyond
For a break in learning greater than four weeks that begins on or after 1 April, the apprenticeship should be ‘paused’ by the employer through the apprenticeship service at the point the break in learning begins.
The employer should “not ‘stop’ the apprenticeship through the apprenticeship service as this will prevent it resuming subsequently”.