Learning Support and Apprenticeship End Point Assessment
Key apprenticeship funding changes came into force on Aug 1st 2021. In the second of our series of exclusive webinars for Bud clients, David-Lockhart Hawkins, post 16 education training specialist, discussed the importance of understanding and implementing these changes.
Here we look at the key learning support and End Point Assessment (EPA) related points that came out of his presentation – and some of the challenges providers should be aware of in the coming months. We’ll also dive deeper into how our industry experts have built Bud to ensure that, despite these changes, you will be able to stay compliant and avoid any costly issues with funding or service withdrawal in the future.
Changes to learning support
In the first webinar in the series, David discussed the impact of the new changes on learning support in apprenticeships and the resulting requirements on providers.
Notably, more importance has been placed on the definition of an individual learner’s support needs and, crucially, whether they will have a “direct impact” on their ability to meet the apprenticeship standards. What’s more, providers will be required to carefully evidence how learning support funding is used, ensuring it is only applied to supporting additional needs through ‘reasonable adjustments’ and not to plugging other skills gaps.
These funding rule changes clearly affect pre-programme requirements, but they also impact on-programme aspects of learning support too, necessitating a change in process to “review progress on a monthly basis to determine any continuing needs.”
Put simply, that means you will need to – on a monthly basis – review each individual learner for whom you’re receiving support funding. More than that though, you will need to provide evidence that a review has taken place and there remains a need for this funding going forwards. This cannot be a tick box exercise.
How to meet the learning support review requirement
When a funding need has been identified, assessed and a plan put in place, this is only half the story. Ongoing management is likely to be where the real organisational challenge occurs. It’s important to recognise that funding must not be claimed for a month where ‘reasonable adjustments’ did not take place. This means a process will be required to turn the funding application on and off depending on the outcome of these monthly reviews.
At first glance it may feel that this change puts a heavy burden on admin teams and tutors to work together to monitor cases and manage claims. And while this may be true, it’s not optional. If you want to claim the funding – which has added a useful income stream to providers’ balance sheets in the past – you’ll need to evidence the need.
David’s advice is to begin by improving staff awareness around the subject of learning support. Ensure they understand what has changed – remember there may be things that were potentially claimable last year that now are not – and begin to develop your policies and procedures around learning support identification, planning and delivery. Not least so you can evidence to auditors that you have a process in place and are striving to do things as they should be done.
Updated templates for support needs assessment and planning will be vital to ensure thorough and consistent evaluation of need and planning of support requirements. These can then usefully be used as the basis for monthly review. It’s worth noting that these reviews can look very different for different learners. Someone with dyslexia, for example, may require an adjustment each month. This will need to be reviewed regularly but is unlikely to be turned off during their time on the programme and the nature of the review could be much simpler.
Matt Wood, Funding and ILR Product Owner at Bud Systems said “Bud takes into account the needs of apprenticeship providers to undertake reviews and maintain evidentiary proof of their occurrence. From setting up reminders to ensure reviews happen in a timely fashion, to providing the data required to ensure evidence is captured correctly. Bud users can be sure that, as long as they have the right processes in place, they will have everything they need to remain compliant and confidently apply for learning support funding where the learner is eligible.”
What controls should you put in place?
Internal controls can be extremely useful. Not just to reassure yourself that you are compliant in the area of learning support, but also to prove to auditors that you are doing what you should be. Put in place in a timely manner, internal controls can act as a mechanism for saving ‘balls’ that may be about to drop out of the air.
David suggests 3 layers of control:
- Ask your compliance officer to undertake monthly sample checks. Are the reviews that should be happening going ahead? What decisions are being made and are these being communicated effectively both within the team and through the ILR?
- Put secondary controls in place by evaluating claims at the point of withdrawal or the gateway. This will give you another opportunity to catch anything that’s been missed and will please your auditor no end.
- Carry out end of year checks to ensure all claims are robust before ending R14.
Ultimately, you can expect your learning support funding to fluctuate a bit, which will be particularly noticeable if you’ve relied on this income over the last couple of years. It should be expected that there will be fewer learners with learning support this year as the barrier for evidencing a need has been raised.
The key thing is to ensure you don’t press ahead with learning support claims that are not robust. At this point, with the changes only just coming into force, you should begin to review all those learners for whom you currently claim, prioritising those you feel are less likely to meet the new expectations.
It’s vital you don’t inadvertently overclaim, so you may even want to consider suspending claims for those you have not yet reviewed.
Apprenticeship End Point Assessment
There is one key change around End Point Assessment that all providers and employers will need to be aware of. Dialogues with the End Point Assessment Organisation were required to begin at least 3 months prior to the planned end date of the apprenticeship. This has now been increased to at least 6 months.
Matt Wood, Funding and ILR Product Owner at Bud Systems said “This slight – but significant – rule change makes it important to consider selection of the EPAO and hold assessment price discussions early – something which many experienced providers already saw as best practice. Since the assessment price should be entered onto the ILR at this point, it is a useful working paper check for the ESFA, one that is relatively easy to avoid missing. As a Bud user, you’ll not only be able to add checks into the system workflow to ensure you receive timely reminders, but you’ll have all the data you need from the back end to be able to run specific audit reports to identify issues and avoid a compliance failure.”
Achieving EPA compliance
- Make sure you confirm EPA organisation and assessment price no more than 6 months prior to planned end date.
- Ideally agree your end point assessment price early, allowing you to record it on the ILR
- Put in place audit controls to alert you to those that are not in place with 7-8 months to go. N.B. Bud users will be perfectly positioned to do this.
- Hold evidence of price agreement with the EPAO – this is likely to be in the form of a contract or similar.
- Ensure the employer provides a signature to confirm they have been informed of the price and terms and conditions as part of their contractual obligations around arranging End Point Assessment.
As industry experts, the Bud team works tirelessly to create a system that works intuitively for our clients – and adapts seamlessly to meet changes to industry rules and regulations. We’re also on hand to provide valuable advice and guidance to ensure you’re up-to-date on everything you need to know.
If you’d like to understand more about how Bud can help to support you with compliance and regulatory requirements related to new funding changes, book a demo today.
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