ESFA audits are back! Here’s what you need to do to prepare
Routine audits were paused in March 2020 for all post-16 training providers due to the coronavirus lockdown. But after more than a 5-month suspension, ESFA audits are returning.
The ESFA will be restarting their routine funding audits for independent training providers from September 2020 and for colleges from November 2020. The audits will be conducted remotely to start with, but the agency is looking to restart site visits when it’s safe to do so.
What does this mean for colleges and training providers?
While the restart of remote audits isn’t quite back to business as usual, colleges and training providers should be maintaining quality as normal.
The ESFA is restarting remote desktop reviews of data in the ILR. This means your ILR data should be up-to-date and include any variations that may have occurred during lockdown. They’ll be looking for things like changes to off-the-job training, changes to completion dates, any breaks in learning – on top of the normal quality assurance indicators.
Many apprentices have used lockdown as an opportunity to complete extra off-the-job training. The ESFA will be looking to see if their actual off-the-job hours have been recorded in the ILR, and if the commitment statement has been updated with any variations from their off-the-job plan.
In the new apprenticeship funding rules for 2020/21, the ESFA stated that off-the-job training can be used to develop new skills only – not repeating learning. This means you’ll need an accurate record of each apprentice’s prior learning to prove their learning need. Without the right RPL evidence in the evidence pack, off-the-job training may not be valid and could result in a full funding risk.
Some apprentices have been furloughed, put on breaks in learning, or even been more productive over lockdown. All these factors may have impacted completion dates. If so, you need to update the planned completion date in the ILR and commitment statement.
Claiming the right apprenticeship funding
The ESFA’s job is to oversee and protect public funds, so they’ll be looking to make sure you’re claiming the right amount of apprenticeship funding. You need to show the ESFA that you’ve reduced the maximum funding band according to each apprentice’s prior learning. You’ll also need evidence that you’ve adjusted the course duration and off-the-job hours according to learning need.
Negotiating with the employer
The coronavirus lockdown has impacted many aspects of apprenticeship delivery, so there are likely to be variations between your plans and your actual delivery. Apprentices may have completed more off-the-job training... providers may have completed less on-site visits... employers may have provided extra support.
All these variations need to be summarised in the commitment statement and signed by the employer to say they’re happy with the variations. Some employers may expect providers to reduce the price of training to account for the increased efficiency of remote delivery. If so, providers need to calculate how their fixed delivery costs have been impacted and negotiate a new price with the employer.
These quality variations may sound like a lot think about – but most of them can be addressed with OneFile’s RPL Funding Calculator. With the RPL Funding Calculator, you can recognise prior learning remotely, adjust the course duration and set your delivery costs. Funding claims are automatically reduced according to each apprentice’s prior learning – so you know you’re claiming the right funding.
To find out more about the RPL Funding Calculator and how you can use it to stay compliant, download your complete guide to apprenticeship funding claims.
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.