Overview of apprenticeship funding rules 2018-19

Andrew Gladstone-Heighton, Policy Leader at NCFE, provides an overview of the apprenticeship funding rules for the 2018-19 funding year.

This year, the rules have been provided in a clarification format, possibly following sector feedback, and are an evolution from the 2017-18 funding rules, rather than a revolution.

What follows is a list of the new terminology and clarifications that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has added this year, with an explanation of what this means to you.

In terms of paying for an apprenticeship, the ESFA has outlined that it’s an evolving situation, and that ‘the funding bands, and standards and frameworks placed within them, may be subject to change’.

We can see some new terminology, that an apprenticeship is now defined as a ‘job with training’ replacing the term ‘genuine job’. Similarly, the ESFA has also tightened up its language, changing ‘direct cost’ to ‘cost’. This comes with a reminder that the apprentice must not be asked to contribute to the cost of training or end-point assessment.

Off-the-job training is a statutory requirement for an apprenticeship, the rules now clarify that 20% off-the-job training should cover the planned duration of training, which for an apprenticeship standard is until the gateway for end-point assessment. There’s also a new rule which highlights that you should deduct statutory leave when calculating the 20% off-the-job requirement for all apprentices who begin their programme from 1 August 2018.

The ESFA also clarify that planned off-the-job training must be set out in the apprentice’s commitment statement, and it should be clear in this which components have been used to calculate the 20% requirement.

This year, the rules include some clarification around the eligible costs fundable during an apprenticeship; for instance ‘distance and online learning’ has been replaced with the terms ‘self-directed distance learning’ and ‘interactive online learning (virtual classrooms)’. There’s also some clarity around accommodation costs – to be funded the accommodation must be a mandatory requirement of the apprenticeship standard that would apply equally to all apprentices following that standard.

There’s also an important note confirming that the time spent by managers/employees mentoring apprentices is an eligible cost, but only where this is directly linked to the apprenticeship and not to line management responsibilities.

Conversely, the rules state that student membership fees, even when linked to mandatory qualifications, are an ineligible cost.

Where there are additional payments, a new rule asserts that before a provider can claim for any additional payments, they must have evidence that the apprentice is eligible.

The ESFA also notes: ‘recognising that many providers still deliver frameworks to 16 to 18 year olds, we are maintaining the 20% transitional uplift for 16 to 18 year olds or eligible 19 to 24 year olds. We are extending this measure and it will be kept under review ahead of 2020’.

Subcontracting is an area which the ESFA, and the government in general, is focusing on. There are some new rules and clarifications about this too:

The ESFA express that the provider must take account of any relevant Ofsted reports when carrying out their own due diligence checks on potential delivery subcontractors, and that the lead provider may have more than one sub-contractor.

There’s also a rule change to reflect the new reporting of subcontracting through the Skills Funding Service (SFS).

The ESFA has added a new rule asking that providers also update their subcontractor declaration if arrangements change during the year.

When it comes to the end-point assessment, the ESFA has clarified that the main provider must lead the relationship with the end-point assessment organisation, including where the delivery of apprenticeship training is subcontracted.

Finally, further information has been added around Accounting for Prior Learning, with clarification that funds must not be used to pay for training in skills already attained. Following from this, the provider must account for prior learning, and reduce the content, duration and price where appropriate.

How to evidence this prior attainment? The guidance states that the provider must include a thorough assessment of the apprentice’s existing knowledge, skills and behaviours against those required for the apprenticeship. This includes work experience, previous apprenticeships and prior education, with this assessment included in the evidence pack.