How to recognise prior learning in apprenticeships
The two biggest quality bodies in apprenticeships say that recognising prior learning (RPL) is a crucial part of apprenticeships.
Ofsted wants providers to recognise prior learning so tutors know each apprentice’s starting point to help them personalise their curriculum and track the progression of learning.
And the ESFA wants providers to recognise each learner’s prior learning against the KSBs in the standard, so providers know how to adjust the course content and duration to avoid learners repeating learning, and how to adjust their apprenticeship funding claim.
The guidelines around RPL are rather vague – or open to interpretation! – but here's what we do know:
What is recognition of prior learning?
Most apprentices are expected to have some kind of relevant prior learning in the field of their apprenticeship, but most people will start at different points. The recognition of prior learning (RPL) gives providers the opportunity to find each apprentice’s starting point, so they know what training the apprentice will need.
What counts as prior learning?
Prior learning is any education or experience the apprentice has that matches the knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) in the standard. This could be work experience, prior education, training or qualifications, and any previous apprenticeships.
Who is responsible for recognising prior learning?
The training provider is responsible for assessing prior learning in the initial assessment before the apprenticeship starts. When the RPL has been completed, the provider will know if the apprentice is suitable for the course, how the curriculum will need to be personalised, and how to adjust apprenticeship funding.
How is an apprentice’s prior learning assessed and recorded?
The ESFA hasn’t said exactly how providers should assess prior learning, just that it must be done, and findings must be taken account of. A good place to start is with the KSBs in the standard. The provider should check with the apprentice and the employer which KSBs the apprentice has, document them and provide evidence in the evidence pack and commitment statement.
Providers need to evidence that RPL has taken place, prior learning has been recorded and that the curriculum and funding has been adjusted accordingly. The ESFA will check how RPL has been recorded and used in their audit, so it’s a really important process to follow.
How does RPL impact apprenticeship funding?
According to the Government, ‘Prior learning must be factored into the price that is negotiated between the provider and the employer: apprenticeship funding must not be used to pay for, or certify, the delivery of existing knowledge, skills and behaviours as this represents poor value for money.’
This means that apprenticeship funding should be adjusted according to the apprentice’s prior learning and how the provider plans to stretch and challenge the apprentice. Funding should be decreased to account for prior learning, but the price can increase if the provider plans to stretch the apprentice to distinction. More on- and off-the-job training would be required – and therefore more funding – to take the apprentice to this higher level of achievement.
Recognising prior learning is really important. The RPL affects apprenticeship content, duration, off-the-job hours and funding – so it’s got to be right.
With OneFile’s new RPL skills scan and funding calculator, you’ll be able to:
- Recognise prior learning against the standard
- Adjust course content, duration, off-the-job hours and funding drawdown
- Ensure maximum profitability
- Minimise the risk of clawback
You’ll have auditable evidence of each apprentice’s RPL and clear, audit-ready reports to show Ofsted and the ESFA how you’ve adjusted your funding claims based on prior learning.