The changes to apprenticeship rules and funding brought in from 1st August 2021 might, at first glance, seem a little overwhelming. That’s why we asked David Lockhart-Hawkins, expert in Apprenticeship compliance implementation, to run a webinar to help training providers ensure they’re addressing the key points.
Covering both apprenticeships and the Adult Education Budget (AEB) he discussed in detail the changes to eligibility rules, the challenges this presents in the entry phase, and best practices on how you can address these in your evidence pack.
Eligibility: The change
Post-Brexit changes to right to remain and residency criteria mean that you may need to understand and hold additional data about both your new starters and current learners. In particular, the agency is placing importance on settlement evidence.
- UK and Irish nationals are still eligible if they have spent three years lawfully residing in the UK or Ireland.
- All other EEA nationals are eligible if they have pre-settled or settled status and have three years ordinary residence.
Significantly, the historic approach of a self-declared three years’ residency in the EEA will no longer be adequate.
If you have carry-over learners who are EEA nationals, it’s worth considering the fact that their status for funding will have been set the year they started. However, if they have not been granted settlement status post-Brexit, there is of course a risk that they will leave their employment. This would then require the appropriate actions to close down the ILR and cease funding requests.
What you need to do
As these changes to eligibility conditions are quite complex, they will require you to update how you capture applicant information.
You will need to review your application and pre-entry templates to ensure you are capturing the updated rules clearly and asking the right questions. Your templates should offer different pathways depending on answers given. If applicants are from the UK or Ireland for example, you’ll need to simply capture length of residency, while if they are EEA, you’ll need to review and capture settlement status information as well.
David recommends producing an eligibility guidance document to go with your application template. This can explain the categories of eligibility, allowing an applicant to identify where they may fit – useful for applicants, trainers or business development teams. David also offered useful question pathway examples in the webinar.
If you’re using a software like Bud, which is adaptable, you can change those eligibility questions easily and ensure the required information has been captured. Failure to capture eligibility at the start might mean you need to obtain the information retrospectively. This comes with a risk that ineligibility will be discovered down the line and funding could be withdrawn mid-programme.
One of Bud’s most compliance-friendly features is that learners are simply unable to start or move on until all information is completed and in place, reducing the risk of non-compliance and funding issues down the line.
If – after reading the rules on eligibility and asking the right questions – you are still unclear, the best course of action is to call the helpline and gain advice. The most important action here is to ensure you keep details of what evidence was seen and who saw it.
Prior learning: The change
Prior learning has always been taken into account when assessing eligibility for funding. But previously the rules were fairly simple: Where the individual had prior learning (necessary to achieve occupational competence), the content, duration and price of the training must be reduced when negotiating with employers.
The new rules take this a step further, requiring that funding should be reduced proportionally to content reduction. For instance, if it’s deemed that 40% of the off-the-job training content is already understood, and will be omitted, then the cost should be reduced by 40%.
Of course, this requires precise calculations about the make-up of the content and which parts of the programme will and won’t be required in each individual case. This will be complicated to calculate without the right systems, and it places a large onus on the Initial Assessment process.
Bud has always placed a great importance on the Initial Assessment. Primarily because it has a significant impact on a learner’s eligibility and funding.
Auditors are starting to scrutinise Initial Assessments a lot more and the funding rules reflect stricter requirements in a learner’s evidence pack.
It is up to providers to decide how they implement reductions in duration and price as a result of the Initial Assessments and a clear internal policy is the best approach. It will allow trainers and enrolment teams to reduce content and price in a consistent way.
The rules require consideration of prior work experience such as KickStart or other training programmes – and these must be reflected in any initial appraisal of knowledge, skills and behaviours. You’ll need to be sure that this prior learning does not impact your candidate’s suitability.
There is also emphasis placed on the job role being productive and at the level of the standards. The expectation is that the audit working paper will be updated to reflect these rules a little more closely.
What you need to do
The first step here is to understand the content of your programmes and ensure you have a benchmark of what would be considered ‘occupationally competent’. This is of course best practice in terms of monitoring learner progress anyway, and we recommend creating ‘modules’ from the various components, drilling down to the knowledge, skills and behaviours required for each. You can then use this information to calculate the hours (and therefore training cost) associated with each area. Fixed costs for delivery, admin, certain consumables etc. do not need to be included in the calculation. Adjustments should take account of reductions to your services so some consumable reduction may take place.
It is useful to have a system like Bud that can help you understand the precise make up of your costs of training delivery. Such a system enables you to demonstrate transparently how and why you’ve made the calculations you have. Unintentionally over-inflating these fixed costs could land you in trouble later. So we recommend seeking advice from the ESFA helpdesk if you’re unsure about anything.
Once you understand the demands of the programme, you’ll need to assess your learners’ start point, and this is where the initial assessment becomes important. David suggests that self-assessment against KSBs followed by moderation through professional discussion is the most common effective solution, helping to quantify what learning needs to happen. You will need to calculate a proportion of learning content not required against that which is required. In the end, this should come down to a simple mathematical method.
No matter which way you choose to do it, the key thing from an audit perspective is to make sure you’re storing the correct evidence, we recommend you bring your apprentice on board with the process.
Apprentices should be asked to provide confirmation that:
- They have had a full initial assessment of the knowledge, skills and behaviours from the standard.
- They have had the opportunity to present evidence of prior learning to reduce the content and programme where necessary.
- They have agreed that the remaining programme content is relevant to achieving the required standard.
New rules also state that you and the employer must be satisfied that the apprenticeship is the most appropriate training programme for the individual and the job role has a productive purpose.
We recommend that you amend your Initial Assessment outcome evidence to confirm the following:
- That the individual requires significant new knowledge, skills and behaviours to be occupationally competent in their job role.
- That identification and recognition of prior learning has taken place.
- That the programme content, duration and price has been appropriately reduced.
The Bud platform is continually reviewed by experts in the industry, and we will continue to implement the new releases required to help you remain compliant. Bud offers the flexibility to create learning modules or subject areas – even where you don’t have the bespoke element in the platform for each specific element. These can be used to create an Initial Assessment module, for example, ensuring all evidence is systematically stored and easy to find, control and monitor.
As a single source system, you can be confident that the information you enter during the Initial Assessment phase is taken and used to populate the ILR and meet funding requirements. This reduces the risk of being found non-compliant or having funding withdrawn at any stage. The single source system also means that data is more accurate and reports can be relied on when calculating, for example, proportional reductions of funding due to prior learning.
In fact, you can’t go wrong with Bud because trainers and learners must enter all the information required to meet compliance regulations before they can proceed. Bud is a platform that continues to evolve rapidly, responding to changes in industry regulations and emerging best practice guidance.
Wondering how we could support you through this next phase? Book a demo
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