DfE will now ‘replace’ and ‘repurpose’ the cancelled monthly apprenticeship statistics

The Department for Education appears to have backtracked on a decision to scrap monthly apprenticeship data releases by now committing to “replace” and “repurpose” them.

In a controversial announcement on Tuesday described by one sector leader as “staggering”, the department said it would “cancel all in year further education and apprenticeship releases” from May until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic. They added that they would still publish the end of year releases normally in November.

But in their apprenticeship stats to include the month of February published this morning, the DfE said it would now be “replacing the remaining in-year dates” to “enable us to provide release(s) with more relevant information to cover the period affected by the pandemic”.

They “intend to make headline statistics” such as apprenticeship starts available on a “regular basis, and to similar timescales to those currently, but we intend to repurpose our releases to focus on the most relevant information available”.

The publication explained that the current releases and measures “may now provide very little value and/or may be misleading given how the pandemic will have impacted on both apprenticeship training and provider reporting from March”.

“While collections remain open we have no way to quantify how robust any reporting by providers will be during the period affected by the pandemic,” it said.

“Where there are updates they may well be small corrections to pre lockdown periods. Therefore, given the expected large drop in starts from March, comparing a participation measure in say the third quarter of 2019/20 to this point in 2018/19 would offer no meaningful insight to activity in the third quarter.”

It continued: “While we expect to include some headline summary we wish to repurpose our releases to focus on the most useful and relevant measures and comparisons.

“We are therefore consulting users on this and seek your feedback on key data needs in terms of the regularity of data needed and also the type of breakdowns users would find most useful, e.g. similar to those we currently publish such national apprenticeship starts by age, level and individual framework/standard etc, so we can consider going forward and in light of continued data quality assessments.”

The apparent U-turn will be welcomed by many in the sector, including Mark Dawe, the chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, who described the DfE’s original decision as “staggering”.

Labour’s new apprenticeships and skills minister Toby Perkins said earlier this week that scrapping the monthly releases would be “alarming”.

Following today’s announcement, he tweeted: “I very much welcome DfE’s decision to reverse their previous edict about not publishing apprenticeship data.

“Hiding data that points to problems is no way to tackle them, and glad that government have realised that.”