Apprenticeships: how to stay compliant during COVID-19
Due to COVID-19, the Government has announced a series of temporary changes to the apprenticeship sector – like suspending Ofsted inspections, extending breaks in learning and introducing furlough for apprentices. Another thing that has changed is ESFA audits. Routine audits have been suspended for the time being, but when we get back to ‘normal’ the ESFA will look at data sets from the lockdown period, so providers still need to stay compliant.
To help, we’ve outlined what’s changed due to COVID-19 and what you need to do to stay compliant.
Evidence of signatures
The ESFA has temporarily relaxed the rules around signatures. If you use a digital system, you still need to get auditable online signatures, but if you don’t, there is some flexibility around getting a ‘wet’ signature on evidence during COVID-19. You’ll still need some kind of authentication – things like an email confirmation, a signed and scanned document, a photo of the signed document, or a typed name on an electronic form.
This flexibility was introduced to help providers with recruitment and completion if they don’t use a digital system.
End-point assessment methods
Temporary assessment methods have been added to over 80 standards to allow for remote delivery. To see what end-point assessment methods have changed, you need to check each standard individually on the Institute for Apprenticeships’ website.
Where assessment methods are completely remote – like a recorded practical assessment – the EPAO is likely to make identity checks. To stay compliant, make sure you and your learners are prepared for these checks in advance.
End-point assessment timescales
Apprentices that are ready to take their EPA but can’t be assessed due to COVID-19 issues can have their EPA rescheduled. If the EPA has a time limitation on the different assessment components, each component can be extended by 12 weeks. For example, if the components had to be delivered at 4 weeks, 6 weeks and 12 weeks, it can now be extended to 16, 18 and 24 weeks. If there are no time limitations, the EPA can be rescheduled at any time.
These breaks and extensions will impact EPAO cashflow as they won’t receive the 20% funding allocation until the apprentice has completed the last component of the EPA.
To stay compliant, make sure any breaks in learning that affect the assessment timeframe are recorded in the ILR. If you don’t, you could face funding errors. You also need to record any changes to the assessment in your evidence – the ESFA may look for it in their audit.
Functional Skills level 2
Level 2 apprentices no longer have to sit the level 2 Functional Skills exam to go to gateway – they only have to have level 1.
To stay compliant with this new flexibility, you’ll need written confirmation from the apprentice stating that they’re happy not to sit Level 2 Functional Skills and want to continue to gateway.
ESFA routine audits have been paused for the duration of lockdown, but the ESFA are continuing some oversight activity. To stay compliant, you need to continue all your quality assurance, compliance and monitoring as normal.
Adjusting delivery costs
Due to restrictions on travelling and face-to-face visits, apprenticeship delivery costs are likely to have decreased for many providers. And as employers are feeling the pinch at the moment, they’re likely to query or even renegotiate training costs – which they're allowed to do. To keep employers happy, it’s a good idea to adjust your delivery costs to make sure you’re not overcharging the employer.
This is extremely important for employer-providers who aren’t allowed to make a profit from levy funds spent on apprenticeship training. To stay compliant, employer-providers need to adjust their delivery costs and funding drawdown appropriately.
When we return to ‘normal’, your delivery costs are likely to increase again, so make sure you adjust them appropriately in the future too.
At OneFile, we’re building an RPL funding calculator to help providers calculate and adjust delivery costs according to learner visits, mileage allowances, prior learning and much more. To find out more about OneFile’s software suite, and get on our early access list for the RPL Funding Calculator, book a demo with a member of the team. They’ll show your around the system and answer any questions you have.
This article includes research and opinion sourced by OneFile at the time of publication. Things may have changed since then,
so this research is to be used at the reader's discretion. OneFile is not liable for any action taken based on this research.