Coronavirus: DfE criticised for apprenticeship guidance

The government has published updated guidance for apprenticeship providers - but providers say it is not enough

Julia Belgutay

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Furloughed apprentices can continue their training and end-point assessments can be rescheduled to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has confirmed.

The announcement from the government does not include any additional support funding for providers or end-point assessment organisations.

Instead, the updated Guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers, end-point assessment organisations and external quality assurance providers, published tonight, provides additional information on continuing training and end-point assessment for furloughed apprentices, as well as pausing new funding audits.

Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) chief executive Mark Dawe said this was insufficient and came too late.  

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According to the guidance, the government says it has introduced flexibilities to allow furloughed apprentices to continue their training as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for their employer.

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It also stresses that it is allowing the modification of end-point assessment arrangements, including remote assessments wherever practicable. The guidance sets out that apprentices ready for assessment, but who cannot be assessed due to Covid-19 issues, can have their end-point assessment rescheduled, and apprentices whose gateway is delayed can have an extension to the assessment time frame.

Employers and training providers can report and initiate a break in learning, where the interruption to learning due to Covid-19 is greater than four weeks, says the government, and routine funding audits will remain paused at least for the duration of the lockdown.

Mr Dawe said: “This announcement has hardly moved the dial and it’s far too late. Providers are already doing all they can in terms of rolling out remote learning when what they need is a statement about financial guarantees so they can continue to do their best for apprentices.

"The Department for Education should waste no further time in complying with the Cabinet Office supplier payment guidelines. When are we going to get an honest explanation on why they are refusing to do this?”

Earlier today, Sue Pittock, chief executive of national independent training provider Remit, warned that if the government did not buy themselves and providers some breathing space over the next 12 weeks, "many providers will not make that journey". "It would take years to rebuild the capacity and service that we offer at a vital time when the economy and British business would need us," she said. 

And Dexter Hutchings, founder of the Apprentice Voice, wrote of his concerns that the coronavirus outbreak could disproportionately affect apprentices' education and training. "Not only are they facing disruption to their learning but they also must negotiate the seismic impact on workplaces and, for many, the possibility of redundancy. Anecdotally, we know that the lack of clarity and uncertainty is a source of anxiety for many."

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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