Lockdown: Government publishes apprenticeship guidance

Earlier today, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education promised it will give the sector three months’ notice of any changes
8th January 2021, 11:00am
Tes Reporter


Lockdown: Government publishes apprenticeship guidance

The Ifate Has Promised It Will Maintain Flexibilities In Place To Support Apprenticeships

The government has published new guidance on the provision of apprenticeships during the current coronavirus lockdown.

It states that training providers, employers and end-point assessors must ensure that training and assessment takes place remotely wherever possible. The guidance stipulates that face-to-face training and assessment can continue in colleges and training providers' premises for vulnerable young apprentices and the children of key workers who need it, while face-to-face training and assessment can also continue in employers' covid-secure settings where it is essential for workers to attend their workplace, and where it is safe and practical to do so.

It adds end-point assessment (EPA) and functional skills (FSQ) assessments "can continue in colleges, training providers' premises, assessment venues and workplaces where it cannot be conducted remotely and where providers and end-point assessment organisations (EPAOs) judge it right to do so".

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It adds: "The usual apprenticeship funding rules apply to main providers, employer providers, and employers delivering apprenticeship training and on-programme assessment under the apprenticeship programme. The rules form part of the terms and conditions for the use of funds in an employer's apprenticeship service account or for government-employer co-investment."

The guidance sets out a number of temporary flexibilities to the apprenticeship funding rules that apply during the coronavirus outbreak.

It says: "We recognise that for some apprenticeship programmes which normally involve substantial use of practical equipment and demonstration of applied knowledge this new guidance will be particularly challenging. We have seen strong examples of how providers have adapted training and assessment using virtual scenarios, and live lessons.

"We have also seen providers adjust the sequencing of apprenticeships to concentrate practical learning when on-site training is possible. This approach should be taken as far as possible to ensure that training can continue. We know that receiving face-to-face training is best for apprentices' mental health and for their educational achievement. We will continue to review the restrictions on apprenticeship providers and assessment organisations and will ensure that apprentices return to face-to-face education as soon as possible."

Also today, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) pledged to continue to allow for special measures on how apprenticeships are completed until at least the end of August. The flexibilities were introduced last year and most recently extended to March 2021. Following the announcement of the latest national lockdown and restrictions on movement, the institute has said today that it will now not consider the withdrawal of any flexibilities before 1 May - and will provide at least three months' notice of any decision to terminate. The earliest that flexibilities could actually be withdrawn is therefore the end of August.

Flexibilities are in place in areas such as end-point assessments for 130 apprenticeships. The IfATE said it would continue to monitor the performance of these measures to ensure that they are having the desired impact, including maintaining quality. It added that it would review whether any further extensions are required on a monthly basis from 1 May and provide notification of any decision to change.

Jennifer Coupland, chief executive of the institute, said: "We are all too aware that the escalation of Covid-19, and resulting lockdown restrictions, are hugely distressing for our sector and beyond. I am determined that the institute will continue to do all we can to support employers and providers. It is also hugely important that we do all we can to help apprentices continue their training and complete wherever possible.

"There are now flexibilities in place for over 130 apprenticeships and it would be wrong to disrupt them at this time. That is why we have made the decision to extend."

Ms Coupland added: "As we've said before, our aim with the extension of these special measures is to provide everyone involved with much-needed stability. We continue to be open to requests to new or revised flexibilities and are monitoring closely the overall performance of standards to identify where new flexibilities might be required."

Jane Hickie, managing director of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), called for centre assessed grades to replace functional skills exams and for additional funding support for training providers to further ease the burden on the sector.

She said: "Will the Department for Education consider bringing back the provider relief scheme for independent training providers as soon as possible as there is no guarantee that things will be better after the mid February review announced by Michael Gove on Tuesday?

"The Plan for Jobs incentives are currently scheduled to finish at the end of March and the furlough scheme stops at the end of April. Will the government consider extending the incentives and now look at the possibility of wage subsidies for apprentices, which AELP first proposed in March 2020 and which the opposition is now backing?"

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