Apprenticeship funding rules 2024/25: Changes you need to know

Reforms to additional learning support, subcontracting, SEND FSQs and active learning are coming

Reforms to additional learning support, subcontracting, SEND FSQs and active learning are coming

28 Mar 2024, 11:23

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Additional learning support funding is set for reform and functional skills requirements for SEND apprentices will be relaxed next year, according to new proposed apprenticeship funding rules.

The Department for Education is also introducing a new subcontracting threshold and plans to review “more flexible approaches” to active learning.

Draft apprenticeship funding rules for 2024/25 were published today and revealed a series of proposed changes.

Here’s what you need to know:

Funding claims for learning support made easier

From the next academic year, the government will move reviews for additional learning support from monthly to every three months.

Officials will also allow an assessment for learning support to happen at any time during the apprenticeship instead of just at the start.

Providers can claim learning support funding to make “reasonable adjustments”, such as specialist equipment and extra staff, to support an apprentice who has learning difficulties or disabilities so that they can complete their apprenticeship.

It is a fixed amount of £150 per month which can only be claimed by the provider for each month where reasonable adjustments are delivered, evidenced and result in a monetary cost.

ALS funding claims can, however, be a difficult area for providers which has led to several cases of large clawback.

The DfE said its 2024/25 reforms will “reduce bureaucracy associated with claiming learning support”.

Importantly, the ALS changes will apply to existing apprentices not just new starters.

SEND pilot flexibilities rolled out

The government will allow all providers to use a flexibility that allows apprentices with learning difficulties but without a pre-existing education health and care plan (EHCP) or statement of learning difficulties assessment (LDA) to work towards a lower level of functional skills.

Under current rules, apprentices must achieve level 1 English and maths functional skills qualifications if they’re on a level 2 apprenticeship and did not pass the qualifications at GCSE. And if a similar learner is on a level 3 or higher apprenticeship, they must achieve functional skills at level 2.

Those with an EHCP or LDA can, however, work towards and pass the lower level of functional skills English and maths at entry level 3.

Over the past year around 20 providers trialled a change to the rules that allows special educational needs and/or disabilities coordinators (SENDCOs) to conduct additional assessments and judge whether a learner without an EHCP or LDA – but with equivalent needs – can be approved for this flexibility.

Pilot providers previously told FE Week how this “game-changing” reform was allowing hundreds of people who found themselves blocked from apprenticeship opportunities to enrol on programmes thanks to the exemption.

The DfE said today that following this “positive” pilot, “we are extending English and maths flexibilities for apprentices who have learning difficulties or disabilities but no Education, Health and Care Plan, to study a more suitable level of English and maths”.

£30k subcontracting threshold

DfE will also introduce a new £30,000 threshold for subcontracting from August, today’s rules state.

A provider will be allowed to use a subcontractor that is not on the published apprenticeship provider and assessment register (APAR) but who will deliver “less than £30,000 of apprenticeship training and on-programme assessment under contract across all main providers and employer-providers between 1 April and 31 March each year”.

The DfE said this will make it “easier for providers to bring in industry specialists to deliver training by introducing greater flexibility in subcontracting arrangements”.

Onboarding and progress monitoring admin reduced

Initial assessment will be integrated with development of an apprentice’s training plan, the DfE said, which will “reduce the number of documents employers and providers need to review and sign”.

Providers will also “no longer need to ask employers to sign off each progress review”. 

5% co-investment payment lag

Prime minister Rishi Sunak announced this month that the 5 per cent co-investment for non-levy paying employers taking on apprentices aged 16 to 21 will be scrapped for new starts from April 1.

DfE has however warned that the associated changes to its payment systems will take “several weeks” to introduce.

This means that providers will continue to receive monthly payments representing 95 per cent of the agreed price for training and assessment until June when backdated payments for April and May for the 5 per cent balance of funding will be made.

Active learning review

The DfE is reviewing the “minimum requirement” for active learning, which refers to off-the-job and English and maths training.

Today’s draft rules said the department will begin seeking views in April about potential changes, as it is “keen to explore changes which support more flexible approaches to the delivery of training, such as front-loaded or block release training, as well as providing more flexibility for employers”.

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One comment

  1. Tony Allen

    These draft rules are not clear cut, and contain a number of errors and contradictions which need sorting out.
    The subcontracting de minimus will put an extra responsibility on providers to ensure that such subcontractors are below the threshold. What are the implications for providers if someone lies about that?

    Re the active learning, providers need to be careful what they wish for. For example, am I alone in wondering whether a move to reporting and recording on a 3 month basis is a precursor to providers being paid every three months?
    Call me a cynic….but!

    I am less welcoming about these changes than most!