There has been a lot of talk recently about the 20% off-the-job learning activity and how this is implemented by education and training providers delivering apprenticeships. With some ESFA announcements and then counter announcements, it is understandable that providers are a little confused. Providers and employers are also concerned that the requirement for 20% of an apprentice's time off the job may be a disincentive to taking on apprentices.
Planning or Recording 20% off-the-job learning?
The new ILR specification (May 2019) has a new field PHours. This clearly states that it wants providers to record the planned, not actual off job hours:
Planned off-the-job training hours for the individual apprentice over the full apprenticeship (excluding the end point assessment period) by the training provider, sub-contracted training providers and the employer.
It is not asking for the actual hours. However, once providers have entered this information, they need to be able to back it up with evidence:
The information in the ILR may be subject to compliance checks during the academic year and must therefore be supported by the evidence requirements set out in the funding rules for off the job training.
We all know getting learners to record off-the-job learning is incredibly difficult, but providers are not being asked to do this. They are being asked to plan 20% off-the-job learning because there were historical instances where some providers were just delivering programmes that assessed apprentice competence but did not deliver new learning. Providers are now being asked to demonstrate that learning is being planned and that it can be evidenced.
How to plan 20% off the job
We think the easiest way to plan the 20% off-the-job learning is to do this as part of the programme/curriculum planning. Providers need to consider the programme as a whole and identify learning opportunities. If we consider when a new apprentice starts with a business they will inevitably be required to shadow a staff member to learn the fundamentals of the job they are doing. This shadowing is off-the-job learning. If they spend at least the first week shadowing a member of staff, then they will, depending on the hours they work, have done 5 days of off-the-job learning. What is critical is that this shadowing can be evidenced, which means getting the employer or learner to confirm that this has been done and then recording this.
We have added 20% of planning tools into Stedfast to help with this process.
How to plan for 20% off the job learning
When creating curriculum plans in Stedfast, providers need to consider how to deliver the knowledge, skills and behaviours required in the apprenticeship standard but also what off-the-job learning activities are available.
Creating an activity is a simple process.
Step 1 – Create an activity, give it a description, set when it will happen and then define if the activity includes Learning, Practice or Assessment.
Step 2 – Define the learning outcomes that the activity will cover
Step 3 – Define the activity
Step 4 – Adding the 20% off-the-job learning – as we have defined that this activity will include learning and practice, we can now set the number of hours that this will cover.
We can now also see where this activity fits into the curriculum plan schedule, as this will be important when the new OfSTED inspection framework is released in September 2019.
ESFA off-the-job learning audit
The only word of caution we have for providers is not just to plan the off-the-job but to be able to demonstrate that it has been completed. The ESFA audit will look at the following:
During an ESFA audit, the auditor will use the working papers in the zip file above to assess compliance for each of the learners in the sample. This will include an analysis of off-the-job training.
In order to comply with the apprenticeship funding rules, the quantity of off-the-job training that will be delivered, once calculated, must be recorded on the apprenticeship agreement and the commitment statement before the apprenticeship begins. These documents must be in the learner evidence pack and are the first pieces of evidence the auditor will look for.
Next, they will look for evidence that the apprentice is receiving training that indicates that they are on track against the training plan content of the commitment statement. The ESFA does not prescribe the type of evidence that should be retained; the preferred approach is that ‘naturally occurring evidence’ is used. This is to minimise administrative burdens for training providers. Many training providers already have their own systems and methods of collecting and storing information.
Types of naturally occurring evidence might include apprentice timesheets, training logs, registers and HR training systems (e.g. Oracle).
Our advice is to make sure that you first plan the 20% off-the-job learning and do so when you develop your programmes and curriculum plans. Ensure that you can then provide evidence that the off-the-job learning has taken place and be ready to see it by the ESFA audit. Form an OfSTED perspective, ensure that all learning activities that you develop as part of your curriculum plan ties in with the new Quality of Education judgement which will look at:
the framework for setting out the aims of a programme of education, including the knowledge and skills to be gained at each stage (intent)
the translation of that framework over time into a structure and narrative within an institutional context (implementation)
the evaluation of what knowledge and skills learners have gained against expectations (impact/achievement)