There have been some big changes to lockdown rules which impact the FE and skills sector over the next six weeks, but guidance for exactly what England’s training providers other than schools and colleges should do has been absent.

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers spoke with skills minister Gillian Keegan and the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s director of apprenticeships Peter Mucklow yesterday to raise key questions that members want answers to.

FE Week is also seeking further details from the Department for Education, and we will update this page as and when. Here is what we know in the meantime.


Should providers close centres to most learners?

Yes. The AELP said it understands that the government is working on new guidance which is relevant to providers other than universities and colleges.

But overall, the expectation is that independent training providers are “required to repeat what they did during the first lockdown and conduct as much learning online as possible”.

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

The DfE has removed a rule that previously said those students on programmes that require access to specialist equipment “may continue to spend some time on site”.


Can face-to-face end-point assessments continue as planned?

Yes. 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 DfE told FE Week.

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”.


Will centre-assessed grades for functional skills testing be permitted?

Not likely. In the light of Monday’s statement on the cancellation of GCSE and A-level exams this summer, the AELP asked if the DfE and Ofqual agree that the functional skills testing logjam should be relieved immediately by the reintroduction of centre-assessed grades.

Ofqual “indicated” to AELP yesterday that they are “reviewing options to resolve the functional skills testing logjam” but “we don’t expect CAGs to be among them at this stage but we will keep up the pressure for a resolution”.

As revealed by FE Week in October, thousands of apprentices have been “stuck in limbo” unable to complete their programmes as awarding bodies struggled to adapt their functional skills assessments where traditional tests cannot take place.


Will there be a new provider relief scheme?

Possibly. The AELP said that “without making any commitment”, ministers are “considering the case for bringing back some form of provider relief”.

Training programme starts are expected to now crash again following the new national lockdown which means minimal income for providers for at least six weeks. 

Two rounds of supplier relief were run last year which allowed payment in advance of apprenticeship and adult education budget training to help keep cash-strapped providers stay afloat.


Will asymptomatic testing be rolled out in ITPs?

Possibly. Schools and colleges have been given the go ahead and funding from government to set up rapid mass Covid-19 testing of staff and students this month.

ITPs are currently not part of the plans.

But the AELP now understands that asymptomatic testing for ITPs and their learners is “being considered”.

“Our understanding is that there may initially be some prioritisation according to the type of learning provision,” last night’s email said.


If your provider is seeking guidance on any other training issues relating to the new lockdown but not getting answers, please let us know by commenting below and we will put the questions to the DfE.

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  1. christine tilley

    could somebody please explain to me why it is deemed safe for learners on an apprenticeship program with a independent training provider to be allowed to go in and continue training if they are using specialist equipment and their lessons cannot be taught remotely?. We teach beauty therapy and hairdressing. If students were on a study program in a technical college they would not be allowed into college as it would be closed as it is deemed unsafe and part of the national lockdown. However if they are studying these two subjects as an apprentice at an independent training provider facility they are allowed in so why is this.

    The learner and the tutors are equally exposed whether they are working in a college or at an independent training provider establishment. Apprentices have to continue to work towards an endpoint assessment whereas other cohorts of students are being allowed to have their examinations replaced by tutor grades. Until recently there was no examinations for apprenticeships and for many many years their training has been delivered totally through continual assessment surely we could revert to this situation rather than discriminate against this cohort of learners putting their safety/the safety of their families/the safety of their tutors at risk due to bureaucracy and unfair treatment

  2. When is it likely that the Government will reopen the RoATP register to new providers? This should have reopened in August and there is still no timescale for this.

    In a world where getting young people in to work is more important than ever, it is equally as important for learners to receive an excellent education. At the moment – In my industry – the substandard providers have the monopoly. This is unfair on the learner and new businesses trying to grow through a pandemic.

    This type of monopoly that is now being afforded to existing providers would not be allowed in the private sector. Why is it being condoned in the public sector?

  3. Gail Dalton-Ayres

    As an ITP I could have written this article myself. (no disrespect to author) …of course we wont get the same treatment and support as schools and colleges because we never do!
    The use of the words ‘possibly’ and ‘not likely’ when asked about ITP arrangements and the DFE are ‘looking into it’…. why are we treated so differently.
    Vocational apprenticeships are skills based in many cases and IFATE again are slow to accept there must be more mitigation for EPA – we have students on hairdressing courses who have had to wait 6 months for an EPA date (because of lockdowns cancellations, Covid self isolations, actual Covid illnesses from learners or models, and EPAO staff) in the meantime they cannot progress onto higher level studies, are disadvantaged because although they have completed a much higher standard of learning and ‘achieved the mandatory qualification certificate’ they have to wait for this last hurdle before they can move onto full employment or progression. This is madness!! If they have completed the course, the employer is happy and wants them to progress, and they have the apprenticeship certificate for completion of the standard then what’s the problem! I am sure many other sectors still have mandatory qualifications within their standard to, so this must be dealt with! If schools and A levels can do this why cant we. Again no surprise.
    If not we will see early drop outs as they no longer wish to wait for next EPA date, learners leaving the programme as employers will not keep paying them apprenticeship wages when they need qualified staff, and of course furlough impact now.