The Government has published the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers and in response David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said:
“The process for applying to be on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers has been introduced under some pressure as part of the implementation of the levy. This leaves little time for the 210 successful colleges to agree contracts for apprentices starting after 1 May.
“We are concerned about the exclusion of some high-quality colleges from the register and we have followed up with Skills Funding Agency and Department for Education as a matter of urgency."
The facts of the situation are as follows:
- On 14 March 2017, SFA informed 200 colleges and 1,500 other providers that they are on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP). SFA published the register on the same day that they told colleges.
- The register is new and is a gateway for organisations wishing to offer publicly funded apprenticeship training for starts after 1 May 2017. SFA is also using the register as a prerequisite for which organisations will receive a share of training funds for small companies who do not pay the levy.
- SFA excluded around 30 colleges from the register as well as a number of universities and long-established training providers. In a few cases this was because of the college's Ofsted inspection, but in most cases it was because of an SFA judgement that the answers to questions 9, 10 or 11 in the procurement exercise were inadequate.
- SFA made a pass/fail decision on the basis of an assessment of a single written answer.
- A single fail mark resulted in an overall fail even if the other 12 questions were judged as passes.
- There were inconsistencies in judgements, with responses from one organisation that were judged as failing being very similar to responses from others judged as passes.
The colleges excluded from the register include some that have been training apprentices for decades, have strong employer links and have recent official external assessment that their apprenticeship provision is high-quality. One of the colleges excluded has recently been awarded an outstading grade for its inspection. Others have been in working with Local Enterprise Partnerships on plans to expand apprenticeships to meet local skills needs. All colleges have been participating in the government run post 16 area review programme which has had apprenticeship development as a major theme. Over the next few years, colleges will have a major role in improving England's technical education system and providing the off-the-job training for apprenticeships leading to T-levels. For the colleges excluded from the register because of a single answer to a question, this has now become much more difficult.
The new apprenticeship register and the new funding system only apply to apprentices who start training after 1 May 2017. Separate arrangements are in place to ensure that those who are already on programmes continue their course. However all of the colleges excluded from the register have pipelines of employers and apprentices who now do not have the choice of using them. In some parts of the country colleges are the main apprenticeship training provider
The Skills Funding Agency has re-opened the register for reapplications but their decision-making timetable may mean that the colleges affected are excluded from a chance to bid for training funds to support small and medium sized employers. SFA has made £400 million available for these purposes based on historic patterns of delivery. There is a tight timetable for implementing the levy and SFA planned to make decisions about the register and the tender at the same time. Decisions about the small company tender have now been delayed but it may be too late to resolve matters.
We have and will continue to press ministers and officials for a resolution for this problem.
A word version of this briefing is available below: