From education to employment

ESFA release additional guidance about 20% off the job training

Jane Hyde-Walsh, Founder and Director of the Staffroom

The ESFA have today (26 June) published new guidance on the 20% off the job training rule for new apprenticeships as part of current reforms. The guidance for both employers and providers covers both clarification of the policy and provides some best practice guidance in terms of how this requirement should be met for apprentices on new apprenticeship programmes.

The importance of the 20% off the job training rule was emphasised in the 2012 Richard Review and is core to successful delivery of apprenticeship programmes.

Under the guidance an importance has been placed on the need to distinguish training from assessment and that the focus of off-the-job training is on teaching new skills rather than assessing existing skills.

An emphasis is placed on future Ofsted inspections regime where a judgement will be placed on how well apprentices make progress from their starting points: or what can they do because of their training and experience on the apprenticeship that they could not do before? The HEFCE will also quality assess apprenticeships at level 6 and above on the off-the-job training element, with input from the QAA using a similar approach towards identifying the progress students will make from their starting points.

Definition of off-the job training

Off-the-job training is defined as learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day to-day working environment and leads towards the achievement of an apprenticeship. This can include training that is delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work but must not be delivered as part of their normal working duties.

The off-the-job training must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship framework or standard and could include the following.

  • The teaching of theory (for example: lectures, role playing, simulation exercises, online learning or manufacturer training),
  • Practical training: shadowing, mentoring, industry visits and attendance at competitions,
  • Learning support and time spent writing assessments/assignments.

When the off-the-job training should take place?

Apprenticeships must last a minimum of 12 months and involve at least 20% off-the-job training and this is measured over the course of an apprenticeship

It is up to the employer and provider to decide at what point during the apprenticeship the training is best delivered (for example, a proportion of every day, one day a week throughout, one week out of every five, a proportion at the beginning, middle or end).

However whether the training is delivered in the workplace or off-site, it is important to remember that the apprentice must receive off-the-job training for a minimum of 20% of the time that they are paid to work.

What counts as off-the job training?


An induction does not necessarily count as off-the-job training, unless it includes an educational element that provides some basics of the skills, knowledge and behaviours that are core to the apprenticeship.

The role of progress reviews and assessment in off-the-job training

Off-the-job training must teach new knowledge, skills and/or behaviours that will contribute to the successful achievement of an apprenticeship.

A progress review where progress is reviewed rather than new learning taking place does not therefore count as off-the-job training.

Training providers must still however monitor the progress of their apprentices and although progress reviews do not count towards the 20% off-the-job minimum requirement, they are fundable as an eligible cost in the funding rules.

Off the job training normally takes place outside of normal work duties. To decide whether a training activity constitutes “off-the-job” training, it may be helpful to consider it in comparison to activities undertaken by other staff that are fully occupationally competent. Training which takes place outside the apprentice’s paid working hours cannot be considered as part of the off-the-job training requirement.

Blended Learning

Distance learning can be used effectively as part of the off-the-job training requirement, when it is used as part of a blended learning package. The funding rules do not permit all off-the-job training to be delivered via distance learning, as it can only be as part of a blended approach.

English and Maths

Apprenticeships are designed on the basis that an apprentice already has the required levels of English and maths and therefore training for English and maths must be on top of the 20% off-the-job training requirement.

Measuring and recording off the job training

Each apprentice should have a commitment statement that outlines the programme of training that the apprentice should receive. This statement should set out how the provider intends to fulfil the 20% off-the-job training requirement and this will be need to be evidenced when programmes are subjected to inspection, either by Ofsted or the HEFCE.

Impacts on Delivery

This new guidance represents some important clarifications on apprenticeship delivery and reinforces the importance that both employers and providers fully understand the ramifications of the 20% off-the-job training rules as new programmes are developed and delivered.

More importantly these changes will represent some significant challenges for assessors and quality assurers familiar with previous apprenticeship frameworks and vocational qualifications when it’s likely that in future the expectation will be for more training and teaching rather than just the assessment of competence, knowledge and understanding.

Jane Hyde-Walsh, Founder and Director of the Staffroom

About the Staffroom: A membership site that supports anyone working in the education sector with their continuous professional development and start generating the evidence to demonstrate that you’re able to deliver the new apprenticeship standards.

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