Learning support in apprenticeships


The area of learning support has been subject to some fundamental changes as a result of the new rules that came into force at the beginning of August 2021. We held a webinar, inviting industry expert David Lockhart-Hawkins to give training providers an overview of the guidelines and how they can remain compliant in this important area.

David gives us his thoughts here:

“At this point (16th September 2021) the Apprenticeships guidance has been updated but the Adult Education Budget guidance has not yet caught up.”

What are the new requirements?

In summary, the new rules require apprenticeship providers to:

  • Identify a learner’s need due to disability or learning difficulty
  • Assess the impact of that need on their completion of the programme
  • Determine whether there is a cost impact associated with this

This must then be subject to monthly reviews gathering evidence to demonstrate a continuing need. It’s a much more robust approach to learning support funding than previously.

David said “The ESFA have already made it clear that Learning Support claims will be of particular focus in assurance visits this year. Providers will now be scrutinised for their ALS claims more than ever before. This makes it vital to manage the process very carefully and ensure that they are meeting the requirements set out in the funding rules.”

Matt Wood, Compliance Manager at Bud “It’s worth noting that the ESFA plan to monitor the volume of apprentices for whom you claim, allowing them to examine or investigate if they feel there is a risk of non-compliance. This makes it vital to manage the process carefully and follow, to the letter, the requirement for review.”

Defining the need

David went on to say:

“This clarification of the rules gives a much clearer idea of what is defined as a learning difficulty. It states that a learning difficulty generates ‘a significantly greater difficulty than the majority of persons of the same age.’”

Assessing the need

“A needs assessment could be triggered through your application process, ILR response or diagnostic tests. But the burden of proof here is on the provider to show how this difficulty directly impacts a learner’s standards and the tasks and activities they must do.

The provider must also demonstrate that the impact is significant. You will be required to quantify that impact, demonstrating that there will be costs incurred in making reasonable adjustments to support the learner.”

Planning the support

“Your support plan will need to be detailed and robust, documenting the definition and assessment of the need determined above. It will then need to set out adjustments to be made, costs incurred and timelines.

Critically, it will need sign off from the apprentice – this is a new rule, part of which requires consent from the apprentice before sharing any of the information.”

Delivery and review

“Once your plan is in place you will need to implement the strategy and evidence it. You will need monthly reviews to ensure that the need is being addressed adequately and that funding is required ongoing. These reviews must be documented and signed off. There is no requirement to move all progress reviews to monthly – only those where there is a learning support claim.”

What can you do to remain compliant?

“In terms of needs assessment, you’d be advised to review your learning support policy, process and tools. You should ensure that during your application process you identify and diagnose any difficulties and disabilities clearly.

Where a potential need is flagged, you must carry out a thorough individualised assessment of the need and create an appropriate plan. For ongoing support claims you will need a monthly control point or support review to evidence that continuing need.

The most critical part of needs assessment is collecting and retaining documentary evidence.

At the request of an auditor, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate the learning difficulty or disability. You’ll also need to provide an assessment of how progress will be directly impacted as well as detail any reasonable adjustments that might be necessary. Finally, you’ll need to show that you have a documented plan to deliver the support – one that is signed off by both the provider and the learner.

Unless all of this is in place and the adjustments are delivered you will not qualify for learning support funding. This needs assessment should also be authored and dated to allow for follow up.”

How to set yourself up to succeed

Thoughts from Matt Wood:

“In order to evidence the needs assessment – along with your assessment of impact, plus the support plans and their effectiveness – you will need to put the correct infrastructure in place.

You need a system that supports you to manage the data and drive and record the monthly reviews. The system should also evidence how the support money is being used to address the specific need. And of course, you need someone to undertake the reviews – a support manager perhaps, who will take responsibility for the claims.

It goes without saying, it’s critical to spend time on the needs assessment and planning as it directly impacts the funding you claim.

In order to schedule and document your monthly review requirements you will want to ensure your management system is able to support you. Bud can help you to manage and record these monthly reviews, ensuring that all documentation will be complete, clear and available should it be requested. It will also ensure you have clear controls in place to stop the learning support funding where the review deems it necessary.

We advise you to schedule regular compliance checks on learning support as well as specifically at year end and the point of withdrawal / completion. Data and reporting modules within Bud will allow this to be easily set up, tracked and monitored.

The Bud system can support the entire learning support process as documented in the new rules. Not only will it flag where learning support assessment is necessary, it will also manage and record the intervention for the learner, tutor and apprenticeship provider.

We continue to make releases available as and when the rules are updated, to support our customers on their compliance and up-to-date.

If you’d like to learn more, contact us for a demo.