Funding bands for 18 apprenticeships have been boosted by the government, so far, amid a promised review of the 100 “most-used” apprenticeship standards.
However, questions have been raised about how the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education is deciding which apprenticeships are in scope for the special review, which was pushed for by ministers, as FE Week analysis shows many involved have low starts.
As part of its “crackdown on rip-off university degrees” media push over the summer, the Department for Education committed to “updating 100 apprenticeships in sectors such as construction and healthcare, so they reflect the latest technological advancements and work better for employers and apprentices”.
The IfATE then told the FE sector it would “review the content of 100 of the most-used standards so they reflect technological developments and up-to-date technical skills”.
Those reviews had started in April and the institute pledged to “complete” the 100 reviews by the end of December 2023. To date, the institute has completed 59 reviews but is yet to even identify the other 41 standards.
Of those 59 reviews (see full list below), 18 have included an increase to funding bands. Five have ended up being retired.
The apprenticeship with the biggest funding band increase was the level 6 chartered legal executive, which shot up by £15,000 from £12,000 to £27,000.
The level 2 bricklayer, level 3 assistant accountant, and level 2 hairdressing professional apprenticeships all had increases of £4,000.
Despite its claim that the “most-used” apprenticeship standards would be part of the 100 reviews, 18 of the 59 reviewed so far had zero starts in 2021/22.
Simon Ashworth, director of policy at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “Unlike other areas, there is a process to enable the regular review of both the content and funding of apprenticeship standards.
“However, as we have pointed out, that process takes far too long. The impact this has had on both provider financial stability and market supply is unacceptable. We are also still awaiting the outcome of some standards from the exceptional funding band review announced at our Autumn conference last year.
“It was positive to initially hear the announcement in July to speed up the review process and commitment to 100 reviews by December 2023, but the 59 standards reviewed to date are by no means the ‘most used’ ones, and to support the IfATE we will be providing a list of standards which we believe need urgent reviewing before December 2023.”
The IfATE told FE Week that several high-volume apprenticeships, including carpentry and joinery, digital technology solutions professional, hairdressing, installation and maintenance technician, bricklayer, assistant accountant and retailer have been reviewed.
However, the “need to take account of a range of factors in prioritising reviews inevitably means that some of the other recently reviewed apprenticeships have not been high volume ones”.
The institute said that beyond the 59 reviews already completed since April, it is “not possible to say definitively which four reviews will be completed by December and contribute to the ‘100 target’ because of the need to involve external stakeholders”.
When prioritising apprenticeship reviews, the institute considers several factors including the time since the last review, its external quality assurance rating, withdrawal rates, start volumes, the existence of any dispensations, and its published target to “green” certain apprenticeships.
Each review involves the institute and employers considering whether an apprenticeship’s content “still fully complies with IfATE policy and meets employer needs”.
This could lead to “outputs ranging from significant changes to the occupational standard and end-point assessment plan, with the potential for a resulting funding band change, through to retirement of an apprenticeship or no change at all”.