All providers on the government’s register of apprenticeship training providers (RoATP) will need to reapply yet again over the course of the next year as plans for another “refresh” are unveiled.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency published further details today about the next phase of register which has been closed to new applicants since April 2020.

The agency says it has a “new set of application criteria” that every provider will be required to meet. This means each provider already on the register will need to reapply from May 2021 through a “phased reapplication process”.

It has been barely two years since the ESFA’s last refresh which required reapplications from providers as they agency sought to “strengthen” it.

The ESFA also announced today that providers currently on the register that have not delivered training over the most recent six months will be considered for removal, starting from May 2021.

As announced last April, any levy-paying employers delivering services critical to the Covid-19 response are currently able to apply to the register if they are able to provide the apprenticeship training their organisation needs, via the ‘employer’ application route.

The agency said today that it is now extending this so employer providers can apply through both the ‘main’ and ‘supporting’ routes to the register also. This will take effect from 1 March 2021.

But any providers who have been successful through this exceptions policy since its inception in April 2020 will still be subject to the refresh planned from May.

The agency is also widening the “current set of targeted entry conditions” to the register to allow more training providers to enter “through the additional ‘main’ or ‘supporting’ routes, where applicants can demonstrate they are catering to critical workers and have a linked employer’s endorsement”.

The new guidance adds providers with a grade four Ofsted rating will be temporarily eligible to reapply to the apprenticeships register with a re-inspection monitoring visit outcome showing that either ‘reasonable’ or ‘significant’ progress has been made.

It reads: “Covid-19 has caused significant delays to Ofsted’s ability to undertake full inspections. Providers that were previously graded ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted but are overdue a full re-inspection, which has been delayed because of Covid-19, will be temporarily eligible to reapply to the register of apprenticeship training providers with a re-inspection monitoring visit outcome showing that either ‘reasonable’ or ‘significant’ progress has been made.

“Any eligible providers will be able to apply in line with the widening of the register’s entry conditions effective from 1 March 2021, as detailed above. This exception is temporary while inspection activity is limited due to Covid-19 and we will provide an update when this arrangement will cease to apply and Ofsted returns to conducting full inspections.”

Last month’s FE white paper revealed that the government would undertake a “full refresh” of the register, commencing in April 2021 and will adopt “more stringent entry criteria for both new and existing providers, to better determine whether providers have the capability and capacity to be able to deliver these higher-quality apprenticeships”.

This will be the second time the register has been “refreshed”, after it was first launched in March 2017, relaunched in January 2019, only to be closed to most new applications since April 2020.