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Learning and Work Institute respond to the government’s changes to apprenticeship funding rules

Stephen Evans, CEO, Learning and Work Institute
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Funding for apprentices with additional needs 

Learning and Work Institute (@LearnWorkUK) was commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to explore the effectiveness of funding to support apprentices with a learning difficulty or disability (LDD) and/or apprentices from a disadvantaged background.

The research, “Exploring the funding and support for apprentices with additional support needs” involved in-depth qualitative interviews with apprenticeship providers, employers and third party organisations who they work in partnership with. Interviews explored how organisations define and identify support needs, the support they provide to apprentices, the funding they access to meet these needs, and whether this enables apprentices to successfully participate in and complete their programme.

This report presents the findings from the study and identifies areas for consideration in the future development of apprenticeships funding policy.

Stephen Evans, CEO, Learning and Work Institute said:

Our research shows the complexity of funding rules is a barrier to apprentices getting the support they need. The new bursary payment for care leavers, along with reviewing the rules and continuing disadvantage support, is therefore welcome.

But we need an Apprentice Premium and an access fund to more decisively tackle inequalities in accessing apprenticeships. The Government’s conclusion that more price bands will increase negotiation on price doesn’t stack up. We’ve called for fixed prices so that competition is on quality.

Specifically, providers tend to consider support needs as falling into two broad categories:

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  • Learning support needs: Support required by an apprentice in order for them to meet the learning requirements of the apprenticeship. This may include apprentices with ‘diagnosed’ LDDs; apprentices with ‘undiagnosed’ LDDs; and apprentices who do not have an LDD but require additional support in order to meet the learning requirements of the apprenticeship.
  • Social or safeguarding support needs: Support required by an apprentice for them to take part in the apprenticeship more generally. This can include a wide range of personal, social and economic factors, including financial hardship, insecure housing, or a lack of familial support. Such issues are not seen by providers as exclusively relating to postcodes eligible for Disadvantage Uplift funding. Mental health issues are of concern both as a factor in learning support and in addressing social and safeguarding support needs. These are seen as a growing issue and providers and employers do not always feel sufficiently equipped to deal with them. 

Potential implications of wider apprenticeship reforms

The reforms to funding for supporting apprentices are happening alongside other apprenticeship reforms, including the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, transition from frameworks to standards, and the introduction of end-point assessment.

The potential impact of these reforms on providers’ and employers’ support offer was explored in the interviews. While interviewees recognised that these reforms could affect the scale of provision, the range of individuals who have access to apprenticeship opportunities, and the resource required to support them, the reforms fo not appear to have affected current practice or funding.

Some providers and employers reported that due to the rapidity of apprenticeship reforms, they are still reviewing and getting used to new systems and funding rules. As such, they do not feel they have had sufficient time and capacity to review the changes in detail.

“Sometimes there’s just too much going on at once. They changed the standards, the assessment and the levy. It’s almost that they’ve brought in three years’ worth of changes in one fell swoop and it’s caught a lot of people off guard.” Employer Provider

Regardless of these wider changes, there is ongoing commitment to providing support to apprentices who need it.

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