Applications to apprenticeship provider register to be suspended

The Education and Skills Funding Agency has today announced they will stop accepting applications to the controversial register of apprenticeship training providers (RoATP).

It will close to new bids, including second applications from providers that have already applied in the past 12 months, from 15 April.

This will provide “time for applications in progress and second applications to be completed and submitted” in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The agency revealed the move in its weekly update to the sector, which said officials will “take this opportunity to review our future approach to the register”.

“We will advise further on when and in what form the Register will re-open,” the update added.

The news comes as the ESFA also confirmed they have paused plans to implement a “provider growth limit” that was “to be applied to new RoATP listed providers and planned for later this year”.

A “provider earnings limit” was first mooted by Keith Smith, the ESFA’s director of apprenticeships, in November 2018 at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers conference.

He said at the time this would apply to all providers, not just new ones.

No official announcement from the ESFA has been forthcoming since.

The ESFA’s review of RoATP is likely to include plans to require providers to be “accredited” for the apprenticeship standards they offer, as Smith told FE Week’s Annual Apprenticeship Conference in March.

Any restrictions would form the second phase of the ESFA’s attempts to strengthen its register of apprenticeship training providers, which was relaunched last year following a host of problems with the original application process.

One-man bands with no delivery experience were, for example, being given access to millions of pounds of apprenticeships funding.

Today’s ESFA update said that any provider that has been “advised they have been accepted to RoATP, that has not yet completed the onboarding process, and that are planning to start apprentices before 1 August should ensure that they do so by midnight Tuesday 14 April 2020”.

“Onboarding is expected to resume from 1 July 2020,” it added.