Temporary flexibilities that help apprentices complete their end-point assessment during the pandemic will be extended until at least August 2021.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education has made the announcement following the new national lockdown restrictions.

Chief executive Jennifer Coupland said: “We are all too aware that the escalation of Covid-19 and resulting lockdown restrictions are hugely distressing for our sector and beyond.

“It is also hugely important that we do all we can to help apprentices continue their training and complete wherever possible.”

She added that there are now flexibilities in place for over 130 apprenticeships and it would be “wrong to disrupt them at this time. That is why we have made the decision to extend.”

Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief policy officer Simon Ashworth said this is an “extremely positive development and has demonstrated an ability of a key sector regulator to respond quickly in the light of the latest lockdown announcement”.

This is the third extension of the flexibilities (set to end in March 2021) since they were launched in March 2020.

The flexibilities vary for each standard but can include using technology to conduct observations or professional discussions remotely and reordering assessment methods so that written tests or professional discussions can be taken now and the observation delivered later.

The institute said it will not consider the withdrawal of any flexibilities before May 1 and will provide at least three months’ notice of any decision to terminate.

Coupland added: “As we’ve said before, our aim with the extension of these special measures is to provide everyone involved with much-needed stability.

“We continue to be open to requests to new or revised flexibilities and are monitoring closely the overall performance of standards to identify where new flexibilities might be required.”

Like schools and colleges, training providers should only offer onsite training to vulnerable learners and the children of key workers.

The Department for Education said that face-to-face assessment “can continue – either in colleges and training providers’ premises, or in employers’ Covid-secure settings – for vulnerable younger apprentices, those who need access to specialist equipment, and those whose learning cannot be delivered remotely”.

The department added that where they are able to do so in line with line with Covid-19 guidance, apprentices can “continue to make use of the existing flexibilities and discretions approved through the process set out by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to undertake their end-point assessment”.

But the use of technology for remote assessment is “encouraged where it is appropriate”.