Apprenticeship providers’ qualification achievement rates could soon be improved after the government changed its funding rules around breaks in employment.
New English and maths flexibilities have also been extended to apprentices currently on-programme, while a controversial rule that put funding at risk where apprentices drop-out without making enough progress towards their planned training has been removed.
The changes have finally been revealed in version one of the apprenticeship funding rules for 2022/23 published today by the Education and Skills Funding Agency. It follows the draft rules released in May.
The latest rules show that from next month, providers will no longer need to withdraw an apprentice where they have a break in employment for more than 30 days.
Instead, providers can place the apprentice on a break in learning but must withdraw the apprentice if they do not restart with a new employer within 12 weeks.
Until now every apprentice that changed employer partway through their programme was automatically counted as a non-achieving leaver if they did not commence new employment within 30 days. This would in turn bring down an individual provider’s retention and overall qualification achievement rate.
Simon Ashworth, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers director of policy, said: “The new eight week extension – through a break in learning – will reduce the number of non-completions.
“It’s a big win for learners, providers and employers alike – and something that AELP has campaigned on over a number of years.”
The move comes a month after then skills minister Alex Burghart set a new “ambitious” target for an overall 67 per cent achievement rate on apprenticeship standards by 2025 – a 15 percentage point increase on the latest reported rate.
Ashworth added: “This is also a step in the right direction with the success rate methodology. We know the current methodology is not fit for purpose and, without reform, will impact on the sector’s ability to meet the new 67 per cent overall success rate ambition by 2025.”
Several other amendments from the draft rules, which were published in May, have also been made to version one.
The draft rules said that people who start a level 2 apprenticeship without level 1 English and maths will no longer need to automatically attempt level 2 English and maths tests to complete their apprenticeship.
In version one, the ESFA has confirmed that this flexibility has been extended to all eligible apprentices – including those currently on-programme and not just new starts from August 2022.
Elsewhere, the agency previously said that where an apprentice withdraws from their programme and they have made “insufficient progress towards their training plan”, then funds will be at risk of recovery.
By insufficient progress the ESFA meant where the apprentice is “more than four weeks behind on the planned delivery of training, but the training has not been replanned or the apprentice has not been put on a break in learning”.
The agency appears to have rowed back on this rule and removed it after providers complained it was impractical.
Additionally, the ESFA has introduced a new rule for training plans and documentation of prior learning.
It states that where an assessment has been made and the result of this assessment is that no relevant prior learning exists, providers “must agree this with the employer and document this in the evidence pack before starting the apprenticeship”.
Funds will now be at risk if a provider is not able to “show, upon request, an up-to-date training plan and current progress towards this training plan”. The agency said these rules have been strengthened due to feedback from audits and investigations.