Providers are set to see a number of changes as the ESFA reveal new apprenticeship funding rules.
Achievement rates could soon be improved following the funding rules changing around breaks in employment, English and math flexibilities and more, meaning a big win for apprenticeship providers and learners.
The new funding rules are specified in version one of the apprenticeship funding rules for 2022/23 published last week by ESFA.
English and Math flexibilities
Following the draft rules released in May, we saw a potential change to the much anticipated English and maths flexibilities. The draft rules stated that people who start a level 2 apprenticeship without level 1 English and maths no longer need to automatically attempt level 2 English and maths tests to complete their apprenticeships.
The ESFA has confirmed in version one that the flexibility has been extended to all eligible Apprentices, including those currently on programme and not just new starts from August 2022.
Kelle McQuade, End-Point Assessment Director at Training Qualifications UK, said: “The new funding rules have seen several positive updates that we’re celebrating here at TQUK, especially to the Functional Skills requirements for level 2 apprenticeships.
“For the longest time, we’ve been advocating for this change as we support the need for Apprentices’ skills to be developed beyond level 1 but never understood a blanket approach of ‘attempt level 2’ when apprenticeships are designed to be individualised learning programmes.”
Break in employment
Not only have English and math flexibilities changed, but break-in employment changes will also see a big improvement for Providers.
From August, Providers will no longer need to withdraw an Apprentice where they have a break in employment for more than 30 days.
Providers now have the ability to place the Apprentice on a break in learning but must withdraw the Apprentice if they don’t restart with a new employer within 12 weeks.
Before the new funding rules, if an Apprentice did not commence learning within 30 days of having changed employer during their programme, they were automatically counted as a non-achieving leaver. Due to this, Providers saw a decrease in retention and overall qualification achievement rate.
The off-the-job training policy has been amended to remove the link to the Apprentice’s working hours (for full-time Apprentices).
For a full-time Apprentice, the new minimum off-the-job training requirement is 6 hours which equates to 20% of a 30-hour week, even where the Apprentice works more than 30 hours per week for an employer.
The minimum requirement for a part-time Apprentice remains unchanged at 20% of their normal working hours over an extended duration.
This policy change only applies to new starters from 1st August 2022.
Up-to-date training plans
Funds will now be at risk if a provider cannot “show upon request, an up-to-date training plan and current progress towards this training plan”. The ESFA said these rules have been strengthened following feedback from audits and investigations.
Withdrawal from programme
The ESFA has removed the rule around withdrawal from programme due to Providers complaining that it was impractical.
Previously, the ESFA 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.
Insufficient progress refers to the Apprentice being “more than four weeks behind on planned delivery of training, but the training has not been replanned or the Apprentice has not been put on a break in learning”.
Kelle said: “While we encourage the ESFA to continue engaging with stakeholders to support continuous improvement and sensible application of these funding rules; we also believe that the process should begin far earlier.
“Publishing draft rules at the end of May and finalising the rules on the 20th July to go live for 1st August is far too late.
“We hope the new funding rules improve funding rules and opportunities for Apprentices and Training Providers.”