The ESFA’s accountability framework is for all apprenticeship provision at all ages and applicable for all providers for the academic year 2021/22.

It sets out the key principles and objectives of the framework, alongside the indicators we will use to assess provider quality and the range of interventions.

This will be followed by the publication of technical specifications for the indicators outlined and, where applicable, thresholds, which we will publish in autumn 2021.

This framework focuses on the quality of provision and it sits alongside monitoring activity for compliance with funding rules, financial health and safeguarding.

When we refer to ‘you’ or ‘providers’, this includes colleges, Higher Education Institutions, training organisations, local authorities and employers that receive funding from us to deliver apprenticeships.

Future accountability policy

As indicated in the January 2021 Skills for Jobs white paper, we are introducing a new, more timely approach to accountability for apprenticeship training providers, based on a wider range of quality indicators. The policy will support those willing and able to improve, as well as allowing timely intervention where necessary to protect the interests of apprentices.

Going forward our policy will be built on the following principles:


We will use a wider range of quality indicators to give us a more rounded picture of a provider’s delivery. We may also consider the sectors you deliver in and the cohorts you support when reviewing quality indicators.


We will review data that may indicate a risk of poorer quality in the future, alongside indicators of present quality, and will contact you if we have concerns.

Encourage self-improvement

We will seek to identify risks to quality early and give you the opportunity to improve, while minimising the impact on apprentices.


Your data will be reviewed and shared with you on a regular basis throughout the academic year to ensure that timely action can be taken by you and us if quality is declining or at risk.


We will use a range of interventions to respond to provider performance in a targeted way, for example where poor quality is limited to a particular aspect of provision.

Quality and supplementary indicators

We will use the following data as indicators of the quality of your provision when considering intervention:

  • outcomes from Ofsted reports based on our existing policy Ofsted Inspection and ESFA intervention

  • achievement rates, including compared to other providers delivering similar standards or in similar sectors

  • retention rates and withdrawals, including compared to other providers delivering similar standards or in similar sectors

  • employer ratings of providers on the apprenticeship service

  • apprentice ratings of providers on the apprenticeship service (once this becomes available)

In addition to the above we will review further indicators to inform contract management decisions. These will be subject to change but may include:

  • off-the-job training data (planned and actual hours)

  • learners past their planned end date

  • unusual changes to delivery patterns

  • breaks in learning

  • when apprentices are registered with an end-point assessment organisation

Quality and supplementary indicators used to inform intervention will be published to you as well as contract management teams within the ESFA, to allow you to assess your own performance, encourage improvement and ensure transparency.

Learner characteristics

We have high expectations for all apprentices and every apprentice deserves excellence in their training provision. We therefore expect providers to offer opportunities for training and progression that meet the needs of a range of learners and businesses.

This is in line with providers’ duties under the Equality Act (2010) not to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against learners with protected characteristics.

We do recognise that in some cases apprentices have a greater distance to travel to achieve full occupational competence on their chosen standard. We offer a range of additional support, guidance and funding to help providers achieve this.

We may also consider the profile of a provider’s cohort when we review provider performance and intervention based on the above quality indicators.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) impacts

We are aware that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect apprenticeship employers and providers in different ways, depending on the sectors they deliver in. However, we equally expect you to adapt and manage the circumstances efficiently to support your apprentices. We will take this into consideration when determining whether and which intervention is appropriate.

Transition year 2020/21

In the context of COVID-19 we will consider 2020/21 as a transition year into the new approach. For this academic year we will be reviewing the following metrics:

  • withdrawals

  • learners with no end-point assessment organisation (EPAO) identified and learner due to finish within 3 months

  • learners past their planned end date

  • breaks in learning

Where we think it is necessary, we will seek further information or assurance from a provider.

Small or new apprenticeship provision

Where the cohort of under or low performing provision is small and it is predominately new or immature provision, we will take this into account when deciding whether to intervene and what intervention to take. We expect a provider in this position to set quality improvement targets for the poor provision as a priority.

Data timeliness and accuracy

Our accountability approach uses data provided by you through your data returns of Individualised Learner Records (ILR) and employer and apprentice feedback provided through the apprenticeship service. It is therefore important that we can have confidence in the data submitted to us.

We expect providers to properly and accurately maintain ILR data and other learner documents and evidence, as required by contract and funding rules. Changes to the ILR, including learner withdrawals and breaks in learning must be recorded promptly and accurately, so that provider ILR data accurately reflects the provider’s learner population at any point in time.

We also expect providers to regularly review their own data for accuracy. We already publish tools which we expect providers to use to test the credibility of their data, for example the funding information service (FIS), provider data self-assessment toolkit (PDSAT) and post 16 monitoring reports dashboard in view your education data.

To support providers we have built the Analyse FE Data tool, introduced a live validation service, improved internal monitoring on collection services and have improved the ILR supporting guidance.


We will use the above quality and supplementary indicators to determine whether and which intervention is appropriate.

The first priority of any intervention we take will be to safeguard the interests of apprentices, both currently on programme and future cohorts. Our interventions are therefore aimed to support you to improve your provision in a timely manner, or where that is not possible, require you to exit the apprenticeship market.

Before an intervention we will contact you for your views and to ensure we are aware of any relevant circumstances and improvements already in progress.

The interventions we may undertake on the basis of the above quality indicators, either individually or in combination, include:

  • requirement to design and implement an improvement plan to address quality issues, including specific targets to be met within a specified period of time

  • flagging concerns about providers to Ofsted

  • requirement to cease using a particular subcontractor

  • suspension of apprenticeship starts on particular standards or overall

  • termination of contract(s) for apprenticeship delivery and removal from the Register of apprenticeship training providers (RoATP)


You will have the opportunity to use our existing processes if you wish to lodge a complaint about an intervention we have taken or are taking against you, and you are unable to resolve this with your ESFA case manager directly.

Published 2 August 2021 Contents