From education to employment

Navigating the Apprenticeship Accountability Framework from a strategic perspective

Navigating the complex world of apprenticeship performance can be a daunting task. The Department for Education’s (DfE) Apprenticeship Accountability Framework sets out clear guidelines for performance, but understanding the practical application of how the data is created is crucial for understanding how your operational reporting and practices need to be formed.

One of the key components of the framework is grasping how individual qualification achievement rates (QAR) are created and what year will an individual apprentice count. This is essential when understanding how close to ‘needs improvement’ or ‘at risk’ a provider might be in this key category.

In this blog post, we take a scenario-based approach to unravel the intricacies of QAR, using the case of an apprentice named Billy:

Scenario 1: Early leaver

Billy begins their apprenticeship journey on 5 September 2024 (24/25 funding year), eyeing a completion date of 5 September 2025 (25/26 funding year). However, Billy decides to withdraw early, on 6 October 2024.

In this instance, they fall short of the 42-day qualifying period for a ‘start’. This means they won’t be included in the Qualification Achievement Rates (QAR) cohort at all. They will of course have cost you resources and time but that’s another story.

Scenario 2: Midway farewell

Should Billy choose to withdraw after surpassing the 42-day mark but before their planned end date in 2025, they will count in your QAR and retention cohort at the point in time they become a withdrawal – but what year will they count?  They have met the qualifying period for a start but with planned end year of 25/26. They will therefore count as a non-achiever (within cohort but not achieved) in 25/26 – using the ‘planned end date’ – not in 24/25, the year Billy withdrew.

The system uses the latter of planned end year, actual end year, achieving year or reporting year, what is called the “hybrid year”. So a withdrawal in year 1 on a 4 year programme will affect you for the fourth year.

Scenario 3: Reaching End-Point Assessment (EPA)

Billy reaches EPA, the final part taking place in January 2026. Regardless of the outcome, the ‘achievement field’ is now used. We’re using the “achieving year” for reporting as it was after planned end and actual end, meaning they are counted in the 2025/26 reporting year. However, had the EPA extended to August 2026, the reporting would shift to the 26/27 year (years are August to July), highlighting the importance of the achievement year which can be critical when you have longer EPA phases in some standards.

Scenario 4: Slow progress and withdraws before EPA is finished

Billy reaches EPA late and starts it in January 2026 but withdraws before finishing.

When this happens the ‘actual end’ year is used rather than the ‘planned end’ year. If, like in scenario 3, that fell into August, it could potentially change the reporting year for the apprentice’s withdrawal.

Breaks in learning could also affect reporting years. When returning from a break, the planned end date can be reset so could still fall into a subsequent reporting year. Late notified reporting can also affect the year.

Why is this important?  

The achievement year cannot be predicted by your simple ILR data because there isn’t a field for it until someone sits their EPA. Providers need visibility of a projected completion date so they can understand when an individual might count (and equally important of when completion funds might occur). Similarly, when an apprentice does withdraw, do you identify what year they will count (allowing you to project and be aware of minimum and maximum cohorts for the current and future years)?

By understanding scenarios like this and their impact, compliance professionals can start to see the importance of tracking each apprentice’s journey meticulously and maintaining projected dates and data. The date of withdrawal, completion, or reporting dictates the cohort year, which in turn influences the accuracy of the QAR and retention figures.

Understanding these nuances ensures compliance professionals can navigate the apprenticeship accountability framework with confidence, as well as make more accurate financial projections and ensure your provider’s reporting is precise.

Join our deep-dive Apprenticeship Accountability Framework session to get more practical advice…

If you work as a leader or manager and want to better understand the Apprenticeship Accountability Framework, do join David Lockhart-Hawkins, SDN’s compliance expert, for this 2-hour deep-dive online webinar.

These sessions will cover:

  • Understanding the Apprenticeship Training Provider Accountability Framework, the indicators and risks
  • How the framework works with quality inspection
  • Data, Strategy and setting effective targets
  • Interventions
  • Benchmarking and working with action plans
  • Q&A

Visit the webinar webpage for more information and to book.

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