The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has introduced guidance and measures to support apprentices during the COVID-19 pandemic, which took effect immediately on 23 March 2020. The ESFA’s guidance only applies to England and the measures cover several areas of concern for apprentices, employers, and training and assessment providers.
The ESFA is encouraging training providers to continue to deliver training to apprentices remotely or via e-learning as far as practicable. The ESFA will continue to pay apprenticeship training providers retrospectively for the training they have delivered and can evidence.
The ESFA is allowing the modification of end-point assessment arrangements, including remote assessments wherever practicable and possible.
If apprentices are ready for assessment and cannot yet be assessed due to the COVID-19 situation, then this assessment can be rescheduled. Apprentices whose gateway is delayed are allowed a break in learning, with an extension to the assessment timeframe.
Like training and assessments, the ESFA is encouraging employers to utilise distance-learning tools to prevent a break in learning. If there is a break in learning, apprenticeship funding rules already make provision for this. In normal circumstances, apprentices must initiate a break in learning.
- Less than four weeks. If there is a disruption of learning for less than four weeks, then the employer or training provider does not need to report it.
- More than four weeks. In light of COVID-19, the ESFA is advising that employers and training providers can now, temporarily, also report and initiate a break in learning if there is disruption of learning for more than four weeks. The ESFA will suspend payment of funding to the training provider for the duration of the break in learning.
Where apprentices are furloughed, under the government’s job retention scheme, or placed on unpaid leave, the apprentice, employer and training provider should consider whether a break in learning would be appropriate (as set out above).
Where apprentices are made redundant, the ESFA expects training providers to support apprentices. The aim will be to find alternative employment to allow the apprentice to continue their apprenticeship as quickly as possible within 12 weeks. The ESFA will continually review this 12-week period and will extend the period if need be in the future.
For more information, the ESFA’s guidance is available here.