The funding band reviews are a good model for the future

20 Aug 2018, 18:00

Following the success of the funding band reviews, the Institute for Apprenticeships will use the same collaborative approach to carry out quality reviews, declares Sir Gerry Berragan

Reviews have been a focus for the Institute for Apprenticeships in recent weeks. As we look to make our final recommendations for the funding band review, we’re also finalising our approach to the statutory reviews of apprenticeship standards.

Some might see this as a dual challenge, but I think we have a unique opportunity to learn from the collaborative approach we’ve taken to the funding band review, capture feedback in real time and replicate what works well in future reviews.

We have engaged with trailblazer groups at every stage

With the funding band review, we have engaged with trailblazer groups at every stage. This is an opportunity to ensure each of the 31 standards have the appropriate funding to support high quality delivery, and provide value for money for both employers and government.

Each funding band review has been individual, using a consistent approach without pre-judging the outcome. Our decisions have been evidence-based, and we will communicate the outcome of the review to trailblazers before we submit our recommendations to the Department for Education, who will make final decisions.

We asked trailblazers to provide information to inform our recommendations. As this was a review of existing funding bands, we were able to assess information on actual delivery costs rather than estimates – including quotes from providers and end-point assessment organisations – as well as data from the Education and Skills Funding Agency. Using this evidence to review the identified standards has made for a more accurate and better informed assessment.

We have had some encouraging feedback from trailblazers

We have contacted 19 employer groups with reviewed funding band recommendations – we are recommending some stay the same, some increase, and some decrease.  Reflecting on how things have gone so far, we know some trailblazers disagree with the proposed new funding bands.  However, some groups are content, and we have had some encouraging feedback from trailblazers who have been impressed with the level of engagement. 

We will use this open, fair and collaborative approach as we start to undertake our wider review of all existing standards that will become an integral part of the Institute’s work as we move forward.

Statutory reviews of apprenticeship standards

It’s just over a year since the Institute was created. The initial focus was to ensure the seamless transition of the apprenticeship approvals process, whilst setting a high quality threshold for new standards. Thereafter, we sought to boost our productivity with the Faster and Better programme, accelerating the way apprenticeship standards are developed and approved. We now recognise it’s time to turn our attention to those standards approved before the Institute came into existence.

We’ve designed an approach that is employer-led

We have a statutory responsibility to regularly review apprenticeship standards and assessment plans to make a judgement on whether they should be amended or withdrawn. This will ensure all apprenticeship standards continue to be high quality and meet the needs of employers.

In February, we announced that a review of apprenticeship standards within the digital route would begin later in the year. We’ve designed an approach that is employer-led, informed by stakeholders, overseen by the appropriate route panel and that will underpin the quality of T-levels as well as apprenticeships. It will also be proportionate, taking into account other work such as the funding band review.

Balancing these requirements, we will be taking a staged approach to reviews. By choosing to focus on the digital route, a fast-evolving route driven by changes in technology, we can prioritise those standards approved prior to April 2017, linked to T-levels and where there have been low numbers of starts.

There are mixed views from our stakeholders regarding the reviews. Some are concerned that it could create further uncertainty at a time when we want to increase the number of starts on apprenticeship standards. I recognise this concern, and so this graduated approach ensures that we focus on those standards that do not meet our quality threshold – a necessity if we are to create an apprenticeship and T-level system that gives confidence to employers and learners.  

We aim to report our findings by early next year. At the same time we will publish a detailed timeline and approach for further reviews, which will build on the lessons learnt from the digital review.

If you are part of a trailblazer group that’s been through a funding band review, email us at to let us know how it went for you!

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One comment

  1. This is crunch time for the apprenticeship reforms. Are apprenticeships going to be employer-led or bureaucrat-led? Employers, apprentices, trailblazer groups and industry bodies are united in their opposition to the funding cuts being proposed. These cuts will decimate quality. They will catastrophically undermine the apprenticeship reforms. So who should we listen to? An unelected quango led by a man who seems to be completely divorced from reality or the employers who are actually using the system? It’s choice time.