Take the 'hard' out of hard close


Hard close – or R14 – is a term that can fill apprenticeship training providers with a sense of dread. Get it wrong and you risk losing vital funding, but there’s lots Bud can do to make this year’s submissions less complicated.

R14 is the final Individualised Learner Record (ILR) submission of the academic year. It marks a cut-off point after which you can’t alter your data for the previous year. It’s crucially important that you get it right because this is the data that will form the basis for the ESFA’s financial returns, visits and audits – and it will also drive Ofsted inspections.

For this reason, R14 – which takes place in October – can be a stressful time. It takes a team effort to get all student records in place as well as making sure the information they contain is correct. If it isn’t, you could lose a year’s worth of funding and even be required to pay back funding you have previously been assigned.

How does hard close affect training providers?

Whether you’re a trainer or manager, there’s a lot of plates to keep spinning. It’s tough to prioritise, let alone keep track of what data will matter most for success rates, funding outcomes and key metrics.

This level of data gathering would be challenging at the best of times. But, if you’re a trainer with a large caseload, managing disengaged learners and keeping on top of assessments all while maintaining a high standard of delivery – R14 is the last hurdle in a long line of obstacles.

The period leading up to R14 can often be chaotic for operations managers, too. With learners returning from breaks or illness, additional learning support to be delivered, and new learners being onboarded remotely, providing this evidence to a deadline is a tall order.

Read more: How to better prepare for R14

How Bud can support you

Bud is a single, joined-up platform that automatically captures learner data at every interaction, in the moment, so you have all the data you need to hand.

But being ready for hard close isn’t just about finding the right information in the moment. The best training providers will be monitoring their data all year around, so they can deal with issues as they arise and maximise the performance of their learners.

Bud collates thousands of fields of data that can be reported on and analysed in real time, so you have one true source of data, all feeding into one dashboard. This makes the process so much smoother, as you no longer need to rely on disparate systems and search for data in different places.

If I’d had a system like Bud when I was a trainer or an ops manager, my life would have been so much easier… it enables trainers to do the right thing at the right time, every time, so they can concentrate on the learner.

Ruth Johnson, Business Development Manager at Bud

So, what exactly can Bud do to make your life easier during R14? Here are just a few of the ways the system supports training providers at hard close.

Trainer dashboard

As a trainer or a manager, there’s a lot of information to keep on top of. Bud’s dashboard collates this information and brings it front of mind, so you can quickly prioritise what needs to be done. The system notifies you of daily and weekly actions, prompting you to dig deeper into disengaged learners.

It allows you to quickly pick up on learners who are:

  • Slow to progress
  • Approaching End Point Assessment (EPA)
  • Past their planned end date
  • On a break in learning

The dashboard flags up inactive learners and any activities that are overdue, so you can easily identify the learners who are at risk of being disengaged.

For operations managers, it also presents a pipeline of enrolment, including data on new prospects, the total number in learning, activities overdue, reviews overdue and those at risk of being disengaged.

With all this information provided in an accessible dashboard, you can spot issues earlier and take timely action. And, when hard close comes around? Your ILRs are not only up to date, but also in better shape for submission.

Progress reviews

When a progress review begins, Bud records a snapshot in time, capturing all activity that’s taken place since the last progress review. This includes all activities that have been completed, off the job hours and any feedback, marks and other communication associated with each activity.

Skills scans also allow you to investigate how each individual is progressing along their learning journey and gauge their progression.

You can capture signed confirmations from your learners, trainers and employers, either in person or remotely, stating that they agree to the progress made by the learner set out in the review.

Learning plan

The learning plan gives operation managers a real-time overview of how learners are progressing on programme.

Simple to follow infographics provide details about:

  • How long the learner has been on programme
  • How they are progressing with off-the-job (OTJ) learning
  • How many OTJ hours are planned in to the learner’s journey

Managers can use Bud’s tools to set motivational goals and encourage learners to work towards a distinction level.

All the support that’s planned or delivered is evidenced through a full, robust, audit trail and each stage is backed up with confirmation from the learner. By having this, you know that your evidence will match your claim and that your funding and compliance team have access to a thorough claims history.

Additional Learning Support

It’s common for training providers to avoid claiming Additional Learning Support (ALS), often because they don’t believe they can provide the correct evidence. This includes proof that:

  • The learner is entitled to it
  • The trainer has delivered the appropriate support
  • The learner has received the support

Without Bud, training providers spend hours looking for historic evidence to support their ALS claims during hard close.

But Bud ensures that ALS is evidenced at every level. When work is set by trainers, Bud reminds them if the learner needs additional support and it also evidences that the support has been delivered and received.

We’ve seen immediate ROI with Bud. In the past we couldn’t claim ALS because we weren’t comfortable with the data. Bud’s data has given us the confidence to do it. Within the next two or three months our ALS claim alone will pay for the system. This coupled with the fact that we have replaced multiple systems with one means significant cost savings.

Jamie Crinigan, Operations Director at Skills4Pharmacy

One single, joined-up platform

Bud relies on a completely digital interface, so learners are unable to progress to enrolment unless they have submitted all the requirements, such as qualifications and residency certificates. This process prevents any possibility of invalid documentation, a situation that can come back to haunt you as R14 closes in.

Want to learn more about how Bud can make hard close less painful? Book a demo with our friendly team today and see it in action for yourself.