Say hello to the bands

In May 2018, the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) announced, at the request of the DfE, that it would be reviewing the funding bands for 31 apprenticeship standards. This caught a few in the sector by surprise and it was hoped this would be an objective review which recognised the real costs of delivering the new standards.

There were originally 6 funding bands for the apprenticeship standards when they first appeared, which later increased to 15 and then up to 30 as we have now. The review was mooted as an attempt to balance the books when it came to overfunded versus underfunded standards.

There were promises that this work would be carried out with the full collaboration of the trailblazer groups affected. It was also announced it would be completed in time for the start of the new funding year, 1 August 2018.

Unfortunately, it was clear that neither of these promises were looking to be kept as the funding year start-date passed by and there was still no announcement of band changes.

The standards chosen were from across a multitude of sectors ranging from Business to Retail, Healthcare to Surveying. In total NCFE offers 8 of these standards as part of its end-point assessment offer (EPA) so we waited with bated breath as to the outcomes.

We now have the results of the first part of this work and it’s mixed news. A number of standards have had their bands reduced leading to revised funding rates of up to £5000 less than their original setting. One has been held at the same funding whilst a few have seen increases.

However the focus must be on those that now attract less funding as this is where problems may start to appear.

Regarding delivery, it means that providers and employers must now sit back down and review exactly what the delivery costs will be in line with the reductions for new starts. This must be in line with the funding rules and the current 20% off-the-job training demands. The new costs must be realistic to ensure effective but efficient delivery of the standard pre and post Gateway.

The same must be said for the EPA costs. IfA trailblazer guidance states that the EPA costs should be no more than 20% of the overall agreed delivery costs. As an example, if a standard attracts £5000 funding, EPA must be no more than £1000. It comes to pass that if a standard’s funding is reduced, both delivery and EPA costs have to be reduced. These changes must be taken seriously by the sector as development of assessment tools as prescribed in every assessment plan is costly.

There is some grace with the changes that will, to some degree, mitigate losses. Those bands that have increases will benefit from the additional funding immediately. Those whose funding has been reduced won’t see the changes until January 2019. Not an ideal situation but it gives a small window of time for providers, employers and EPA organisations to sit down, discuss, review and agree the new funding arrangements to ensure the same high quality is maintained.

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