Covid-19 FAQ [Updated 6 April 2020]
The below FAQ is designed to provide you with information on Covid-19 and its impact on the apprenticeship sector.
The below FAQ records the responses we have provided to additional questions we have been asked. We will update it regularly.
If the information you want isn’t in the guidance, or below, please send us a question to [email protected] and we will come back to you as quickly as possible and update the FAQ answers below as appropriate.
The Institute is committed to supporting you, and the whole sector, through these challenging and exceptional circumstances.
1. WHO TO CONTACT
Q – I have a question for the Department for Education or the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). Where should I go?
The Department have set up a Coronavirus helpline for education related queries, including questions on funding. You can get in touch via 0800 046 8687 between 8am-6pm (Monday to Friday), or by emailing [email protected]. Information is also available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-apprenticeship-programme-response
Q – I’m an apprentice. This situation is confusing and I need some help – who should I contact?
Apprentices should phone the National Apprenticeship Service for advice. They can be reached on: 0800 0150 600 or email [email protected].
Q – I owe the Institute a payment. Is there any help available during this difficult time?
We recognise that some of our customers may face disruption or operational difficulties during this challenging period. The Institute is sensitive to the needs of our suppliers, particularly in the current circumstances. Please get in touch with our team on [email protected] if you would like to discuss any payment issues.
Q – The Association of Employment Learning Providers has warned that many providers could go bust, is this a concern?
Yes, it is a real concern. The sector is going to face major financial challenges and we know the government is working hard to support a great many people and businesses across the economy as a whole, for instance with the furloughed workers scheme where people’s wages can be paid up to 80 per cent. We also know that taxes have been deferred and interest free loans are available alongside the new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
So we are hopeful that employers and providers will be able to take advantage of those schemes to help them keep going through the worst of the outbreak.
Information on measures for businesses are available from the Treasury.
2. CONSULTATIONS AND ROUTE REVIEWS
Q – Are the dates of your two consultations (on EQA and funding) being pushed back?
The Institute understands that in the current climate many organisations are having to prioritise. As a result we are extending both of our ongoing consultations by six weeks. The consultation on the proposed new model for setting apprenticeship funding will close on Monday 18 May at midday. The deadline for the consultation on a simplified and strengthened model of EQA of apprenticeship assessments will be Thursday 21 May.
Q – Are the Institute’s Route Reviews going ahead?
We are continuing to work on preparing the reviews internally, but there will be no further externals progression or announcements.
Stakeholder engagement and effective consultation with employers are at the heart of the Institute’s approach to Route Reviews and this is constrained presently. We are also committed to providing as much stability as possible whilst the apprenticeship system responds to the disruption brought about by Covid 19.
It has therefore been decided to pause the on-going Route Reviews and to postpone the announcement of any outcomes. When the circumstances ease, it our intention to return to the on-going reviews and we will continue to make preparations for this in the meantime.
We had announced that the Care Services and Health and Science Reviews would be expected to launch during Summer 2020. The impact of Covid-19 makes this inadvisable, so we have made the decision to delay the launch until further notice.
The outcomes of the Digital Route Review are now complete, so we will continue to work with Trailblazer Groups, where we are able
Q – What about other consultations?
Trailblazer consultations on individual standards will continue and will be extended from 10 to 12 days. Consultations on T Level outline content will also continue.
The Institute feels that we have a responsibility to keep this work going in order to provide for the apprentices and students of the future, but we will keep this approach under review.
3. END POINT ASSESSMENT (EPA)
Q – Can EPA organisations still complete EPA for a furloughed worker where this apprentice is still being supported on their apprenticeship and a valid assessment can take place?
Yes, EPA can still be completed for a furloughed worker.
Q – Can a pause in learning be taken during the EPA?
A pause in learning can be taken at any point post gateway, including between end point assessment methods.
Q – Where the assessment plan requires a workplace observation can this now be conducted remotely?
If a face to face observation cannot be delivered, as set out by the EPA plan, it may be done remotely if this has been authorised by the external quality assurance (EQA) provider for the apprenticeship standard. The Institute is clear that, wherever possible, EPA should be done remotely.
Remote observation must have in place additional requirements, which are set out in full in the Institute’s guidance (for example verifying the apprentice’s identity). Remote observation is not appropriate in all apprenticeships and for some occupational standards there is no alternative to pausing the EPA. EQA providers will consider this when making a decision.
Q – If the Institute’s guidance does not enable an EPA to go ahead, could an assessment method be changed?
If an EPA cannot go ahead under the current guidance, an EPA organisation could request a change to the assessment method. This request will need to be sent to the EQA provider, who will come to the Institute for approval. If allowed, the change will apply to the standard and all its EPA organisations. Any changes allowed will only apply specifically to the current situation, will be temporary and do not set a precedent for any future change requests or ways of delivering EPA. Assessment methods are not being substituted at this time, but this is being kept under review.
Q – Can tests be administered for apprentices in their homes?
Tests may be administered for apprentices in their homes if this is reasonable and feasible. The testing environment must still be secure and suitable – both for the test and the apprentice. The test will need to be delivered fairly and appropriately and must be invigilated. Invigilation must still happen and it can be done remotely. All invigilators will need to have been appropriately trained and meet the usual independence criteria. Invigilators can be specially recruited for this role but need to be trained appropriately.
4. EQA PROVIDERS
Q – What happens if an EQA provider does not respond?
You should approach the relevant EQA provider in the first instance when seeking to apply flexibility to delivery of a specific standard. Where the EQA provider does not reply to this query within 48 hours you should make contact with the Institute directly at [email protected].
Q – Why are you asking EQA providers to agree flexibilities for individual standards?
We are confident that EQA providers have the right expertise to take these decisions. Knowledge of the sector and how EPA is delivered within that sector is critical to taking these decisions and EQAPs are practised in making these judgements. The Institute continues to oversee EQA.
Q – Will EQA audits be suspended during this period as this is the approach taken by some other inspection agencies?
We believe that as EPA is continuing, EQA should continue as well, as this will benefit apprentices. We have though asked EQA providers not to conduct in-person audits at this time.
Q – How quickly should we expect EQA providers to give guidance to EPA organisations regarding changes to the EPA? For example re-ordering elements of the EPA such as carrying out a professional discussion before a skills test.
We expect EQA providers to respond promptly to queries and requests for flexibilities. However, we recognise that not all requests will be straightforward and may require discussion between EPA organisations, EQA providers and the Institute to establish the best approach to deliver EPA in a way that works for apprentices and employers. If you have not had any response to your query within 48 hours, please get in touch with the Institute via [email protected].
5. EFFECT ON APPRENTICES
Q – What does ‘hardship’ for apprentices mean in the Institute’s guidance?
‘Hardship’ means that an apprentice would be disadvantaged if they were not able to take their EPA (because it was paused). This may be because they are not able to complete their apprenticeship before their term of employment ends, could not progress to a higher salary, or move onto further training or another employer.
The Institute has set out suggested professional discretions that can be applied, to help in these circumstances.
Q – Will the apprenticeship system as a whole be paused?
The Institute is seeking to ensure that apprenticeships continue by being flexible, whilst also retaining the integrity of apprenticeships. Many employers do still wish apprenticeships to proceed and in many cases they can. It would be unfair to many apprentices and their employers to pause their apprenticeship where training and EPA can still be delivered. This must be balanced against the need to maintain the quality of apprenticeships as a measure of occupational competence as far as possible. In some standards, delivery of EPA will not be possible and apprentices on these standards may have to be paused at some point.
Q – Can staff be registered onto an apprenticeship during furlough if all the conditions for starting an apprenticeship are in place?
Please call the DfE helpline as above for advice on this.
Q – Can training providers still support a furloughed worker where this apprentice is still being supported on their apprenticeship?
Yes, training can still be completed for a furloughed worker.