This August, the Department of Education changed the off-the-job training policy. Previously an apprentice needed to train for a minimum of 20% of their own working hours, but following the regulatory changes this is no longer the requirement. Instead, a consistent figure will be calculated using the new guidelines. Once calculated the programme can still be delivered flexibly.  

In addition, a minimum baseline figure of six hours per week will also be introduced, irrespective of the hours worked by the apprentice, (this figure was chosen as it represents 20 per cent of 30 hours, which all apprentices will be doing as a minimum).

This ESFA have stated ‘these amends were put in place as ‘49% of audits indicate off the job calculation issues and so they’ve had to strengthen some of the other rules in this area that are at the root of these issues.’ But these changes must not dilute the existing requirement to provide the right level of training to every apprentice. ‘The volume of training that is delivered must be guided by the initial assessment of the apprentice and this may mean that an apprentice trains for more than 6 hours per week.’

This is a positive change, says FE Week, about simplification and fairness, ‘particularly to those working longer working hours. Under the old regulations apprentices who work longer hours were potentially impacted by having to work extra off the job time (i.e. higher working hours means a higher threshold off the job for eligibility)’. So as to rectify this and streamline the process the minimum volume of hours will no longer be linked to working hours.

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers director of policy Simon Ashworth, in his statement to FE Week, says they welcomed the move:

“The approach using actual and individual contracted hours created inequality. This meant that some individuals had to undertake additional training, purely because of their contracted hours – which don’t always correlate to what training they actually need,” he said.

‘Along with being fairer, the proposed baseline approach is simpler to understand. We are glad that the ESFA have listened and acted on these concerns.’

Smart Assessor updates

Skills minister Alex Burghart said to FE Week: ‘we now want to focus on making the system as simple and user-friendly as possible, reducing bureaucratic burdens on employers and providers and giving apprentices the best possible experience.’

The changes being implemented into the Smart Assessor system will ensure a smooth shift into the new regulations and ensure the ambitions behind it are met. Our developments allow you to input the expected off the job hours in the format of a fixed hourly figure for each learner and programme, enabling clients to change the way they calculate and record off the job values.

Many of our clients have already welcomed the change. Before the legislative announcement it was a top request on our idea’s portal, where clients highlighted a preference to input this value, as opposed to having it calculated for you, especially as many higher-level apprenticeships have a higher expectation for off the job hours.

In our latest update, our product manager, Ben Brownlee, walks us through the new interface and shares best practice insights in this one minute video. Click here to watch the full update.


Rolling calculation

So that learners can track and view this information quickly, we’ve also added an updated time log tile on the learner’s dashboard, replacing the off the job hours tile.

This displays the expected hours to date, and the actual hours completed as well as the differential between those figures. Our rolling calculations will ensure these figures are always up to date. This gives learners a quick indication of how they are performing against requirements.

Reports and summary for assessors

These figures will also be visible to assessors. A summary can found be in the learner timelog and off the job values will also be displayed in relevant reports including:

  • Learner Progress Report
  • Employer Learner Progress Report
  • Timelog Data Export

Future updates and long-term support

This first stage of our updates allow you to input values manually. The next deployment will include the ability to import values in bulk for several programmes and large volumes of learners. 

We will continue to support 20% off the job functionality for learners that have started prior to 1st August and for those on part time courses, starting after 1st August, where the 20% off the job calculations still apply. If the checkbox remains unchecked, we will continue to use 20% off the job calculations based on the learner’s contracted work hours and holiday entitlement.

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