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Apprenticeships: The importance of initial assessment and recognition of prior learning

Correctly recognising prior learning and experience through an effective initial assessment is crucial to delivering quality apprenticeship programmes. It is vital that apprentices have a high-quality experience and receive the training they need, while delivering apprenticeships which work for employers, and comply with the apprenticeship funding rules. Apprenticeship funding must not be used to pay for training the apprentice does not need, or certify knowledge, skills, and behaviours the apprentice already has.

We want to support providers to be able to tailor apprenticeship programmes to meet individuals’ needs and establish the correct starting point, while also meeting the statutory requirements about off-the-job training and minimum duration which apply to all apprenticeships. The ESFA has published guidance on how employers and training providers should meet the minimum 20% off-the-job training requirement for apprentices.

This guidance has been updated to meet the priorities set out in the Skills for Jobs White Paper about delivering flexible apprenticeships and aligning post-16 technical education to employer-led occupational standards. Recognising prior learning and experience can support learners to transition into apprenticeships, and we want to support training providers to recognise this opportunity.

The Apprenticeship Funding Rules have been updated to further clarify that providers must be able to perform a robust initial assessment and clearly document it in the evidence pack. We need providers to clearly show how their assessment has led to the development of a tailored training plan for the apprentice, along with the proportionate reduction in content, duration, and price.    

Information for training providers, employers and apprentices about the need for, and importance of, initial assessment and recognition of prior learning:

Apprenticeships: initial assessment to recognise prior learning


Published 11 March 2019
Last updated 19 August 2021 + show all updates

  1. Updated the definition of an initial assessment. Provided more guidance on why an initial assessment needs to be conducted and how it relates to the apprenticeship funding rules. Defined the roles of the apprentice, training provider and employer when it comes to recognising prior learning. Added a specific example of what an initial assessment is.

  2. First published.

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