How to return monthly ILR (individualised learner record)

When your ILR data is correct, returning the monthly ILR is actually quite simple.

How to return monthly ILR (individualised learner record)

What is ILR data? 

ILR stands for ‘individualised learner record’ and is the primary data collection for further education and work-based learning in England. Providers must submit ILR data for each of their apprentices every month to claim funding from the ESFA. It’s a major part of apprenticeship delivery, funding and compliance – and it’s a major pain point for many providers.  

 How should ILR be returned? 

Getting ILR data right and submitting it on time is really important for providers. Unfortunately, there are many possible errors that could occur in ILR data – from simple things like incorrect date formats to complex validation checks between data fields. If errors are found, the ESFA will return the ILR data so you can correct it, but the error reports tend to be long and difficult to understand. Additionally, keeping on top of learners’ data gets harder as the number of your learners grow. The ESFA doesn’t give you much time to make the corrections and resubmit the data. If you don’t resubmit the data in time, there may be a delay in your funding.  

This is a major issue for many providers who rely on the ESFA for funding, cashflow and compliance. Therefore, using an ILR tool or management information (MI) system is the easiest way to make sure all the data is up-to-date and accurate. As a starting point, the ESFA do provide a free learner entry tool to submit ILR data but it’s limited to 500 learners. The tool is quite basic as in addition to the learner limit, it doesn’t flag any errors or help you keep track of submission status etc. but it’s a good place to start if you only have a few learners. 

A great ILR tool will use the ESFA’s latest funding rules to apply funding validations on the fly. OneFile’s ILR, for example, is integrated with ESFA’s Funding Information System (FIS) tool and so it will flag any errors in the ILR data before you submit it to the ESFA This improves your QA process by ensuring that any submissions are error free, and you won’t be at risk of delays in your funding. 

When you know ILR data for all your learners is complete and correct, returning the monthly ILR is actually quite simple:

1. Check the guidance, rules, and timetables

If you’ve worked in FE for a while, you’ll know that funding rules have a tendency to change. Check your learner data complies with the latest funding rules and guidance for your provision. These can be found on the ESFA website. 

You’ll also need to check the ILR data collection timetables to make sure you’ve collected the right data at the right time. 

2. Generate an ILR file

If you use an MI system or ILR tool, you’ll be able to download an ILR file for each of your learners. 

3. Submit the ILR file

Login to your account on the ESFA’s Information Management Services site and upload the ILR file. 

4. Resolve any data issues

If there are any errors in the ILR, the ESFA will return the file so you can make corrections. If you’ve used a good ILR tool to collect the information, there should be little to no errors. 

When you’ve made the corrections, upload the updated ILR file. 

As you can see, the process of submitting ILR data is remarkably simple – if you know your data is correct and complete.  

What are the common pitfalls providers encounter with ILR data? 

The most common errors are typically easy to resolve – you just need a tool that will help you find and correct them quickly. The ESFA provide a Funding Information System (FIS) to help providers check each ILR file before it’s submitted but you’ll need an ILR software that allows you to validate using the FIS tool. OneFile ILR now has a FIS integration so it’s as easy as one-click to check if all your learner data is accurate.  

OneFile ILR is packed full of features 

OneFile ILR is a gamechanger for providers. You can manage all your apprenticeship submissions easily and its full of features to make sure your submissions are straight forward and error-free.  

Ready to find out more about how OneFile ILR works? Click below to book a demo. 


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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.