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Gloucestershire Business News

Have your say on changes to apprenticeship funding rules

The Department for Education (DfE) is proposing some changes to the apprenticeship funding rules for 2023/24.

It's not too late to have your say. Any feedback on the proposed new rules can be made by email to the DfE at by April 28.

Gloucestershire College has pulled together the headline rule changes to be aware of:

• A key change for the new academic year is that some active learning (off-the-job training or English/ maths training) must take place in every calendar month of the practical period, as opposed to every 28 days. On paper this may appear a subtle change, but it will have a big impact as it stretches the period between active learning to a seven to eight week maximum period and could see the total number of interactions required reduced over a full year from at least 13 to 12. Greater flexibility around active learning has been a key theme to reduce time consuming and costly replanning activity, allowing flexibility for apprentices in sectors such as hospitality and retail to navigate busy periods such as Christmas and allow providers to concentrate on delivering high quality training and less paper chasing.

• Providers must use a break in learning (BIL) where there is no plan for any active learning (either off-the-job training or English/ maths training) to occur every calendar month of the practical period. With the move from 28 days to calendar months, this will hopefully lead to fewer, less arbitrary BILs - which can only be a good thing, with less of a paperchase. Apprentices placed on a BIL are at greater risk of not completing and being withdrawn.

• From next year, progress reviews will take place at least four times each year. The expectation is that they must be carried out at least every 12 weeks, but there will now be flexibility where this is an evidenced delivery reason (such as module length) to adopt an alternative frequency. Alternative frequencies must be agreed upon with the employer, but this change allows progress reviews to fit around training, as opposed to be fixed at set points, which in some cases are counterproductive and arbitrary.

• The training plan must be agreed upon before any training is delivered (this agreement can be virtual), with a fully signed version of the plan in place by the end of the 42-day 'qualifying day' period. In essence, this allows for a more extended period to get the training plan signed off by the employer and reduces the pressure on onboarding. The flexibility around the virtual aspect is positive too, as providers and employers are encouraged to be able to use different methods and tools.

• If the employer is unable to attend the Initial Assessment discussion, the provider must give them the opportunity to contribute. They must also send them the relevant information after the meeting, for review and signature. This is added to support occasions, where the employer is not able to attend a meeting with the provider and individual, but noting this shouldn't be the default position.

• There will also be an increase in the apprenticeships care leavers' bursary to £3,000, for new starts from August 2023. This aligns with the previously announced NAW policy, and the payment will be made in three instalments.

Ultimately, the goal of simplification is to improve take-up of apprenticeships. The funding rules are just one factor in determining how many people take on an apprenticeship, but an important one.

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