GMLPF infosheet: Putting Apprentices on Furlough

As part of our suite of COVID-19 communication materials, we have produced an information sheet about apprenticeships and furloughing. The information sheet targets employers and aims to raise the awareness of furloughing as an option for employers to consider before making apprentices redundant. It also points out the disadvantages of breaks in learning.

We encourage members to share this with their employers.


GMLPF COVID-19 Communications Campaigns

GMLPF is running two communication campaigns relating to COVID19:

Campaign 1: Don’t Wash Your Hands Of Apprentices









This campaign is designed to encourage businesses who employ apprentices to keep them employed or furloughed. Please note that the support available from Government will be backdated to 1 March and operational for 3 months initially. It will pay 80% of staff wage costs including apprentices. If apprentices are on minimum wage the employer will be required to make up the difference.

Furloughing is a short term option but is the best for all parties because:

  • it provides financial support for employers to retain staff
  • apprentices can continue to receive training from the provider (they can use the downtime to deliver learning, much of it virtual or online learning, and maintain contact with the learner to provide support and help safeguard them)
  • for the provider it means that they can continue to operate, deliver learning and drawing down income.

Making apprentices redundant or putting them on a break in learning helps nobody.

We urge members to participate in this campaign by:

  • sharing our posts on social media
  • speaking to your employers about avoiding apprentice redundancies or breaks in learning


Campaign 2: Don’t Pull The Plug on Apprenticeship Providers










The aim of this campaign is to lobby Government for the same financial support for Apprenticeship providers that has been given to other parts of the further education and skills sector. It is about levelling up support and ensuring equality and parity.

The Government’s proposed funding model for Apprenticeship providers may force many to furlough staff and mothball their operations. This means that large numbers of apprentices will go on breaks in learning. Because of Covid-19 it is increasingly difficult to engage new starts, support the existing cohort of learners because of work restrictions and to help learners complete their Apprenticeship. As a result, income is drying up.

GMLPF is asking Government to provide profile funding to facilitate a guaranteed level of cash flow to help maintain operations. We have already lobbied the LCR’s 16 MPs to support this. If providers mothball operations it could take a significant period of time to get back to normality. This will result in employers and learners becoming disillusioned with the brand. The disruption will cause providers significant financial, staffing and delivery issues. Simply, it is better to provide the same level of support on offer to other providers to those delivering Apprenticeships.

Please support our campaign by:

  • lobbying your MP for a change to the Government’s funding policy for Apprenticeships
  • sharing our posts on social media


Support for members and businesses affected by COVID-19

As part of our campaign to protect apprentices and apprenticeship providers, GMLPF is keen to support members/providers and the businesses they work with to access Small Business Rate Relief and the grants available to them from the Government.

Liverpool City Region Growth Company has a dedicated team on hand to help businesses

Find out more


Information on other sources of Government funding including support to furlough 

Find out more

Members concerns about Coronavirus/Covid-19

The UK Government confirmed yesterday that it is remaining in the “containment stage” of its response to the coronavirus. Measures to delay the spread of the virus i.e. “social distancing” will not be introduced yet.

Notwithstanding that, a number of members have raised issues about this including; the need to work intensively with learners to allay their fears, the financial implications of a protracted pandemic, the practical challenges that providers (particularly those delivering work-based learning support) might face in engaging and supporting learners.

Clearly, as we have seen in other countries and Italy in particular, the number of cases that are reported in the UK is likely to increase significantly and will have an impact on learning providers and their ability to deliver learning programmes.

GMLPF is liaising with DfE, the Combined Authority and Ofsted to obtain and then disseminate any updates that they may have. These will be circulated as and when they are published. In the meantime, members should follow national updates by visiting this site which has some very practical information on the virus, how to delay it and what to do if anybody develops an illness as a result of contracting the virus. The guidance is largely focused on public health messages, in line with Public Health England’s core guidance.


Coronavirus break in learning guidance

DfE yesterday published some interim guidance that will allow apprentices to have a break in learning if they cannot be assessed due to the coronavirus. At the moment this only applies to apprentices who have reached the gateway and those who have gaps in learning due to coronavirus. A break in learning will apply where there has been a break of four weeks or more. The DfE guidance is set out below:

  1. Apprentices who are ready for assessment – i.e. who reach gateway and cannot be assessed due to assessor illness or Covid-19 related measures, will be allowed to have a break in learning. This should protect funding and completion of apprenticeships and should be reflected in the July completion rules.  The normal breaks in learning process should be followed and therefore we only need notifying once a break in learning has exceeded 4 weeks.  A break in learning must occur before the learner is recorded as completed.  Apprentices can go on a break in learning between completing the learning activity (learning actual end date) and the assessment, but there would be no requirement to record in this in the ILR as it will not have an effect on funding.
  2. Apprentices who experience gaps in training due to Covid-19 related illness in the workplace or off the job can classify this period as a break in learning.  The normal breaks in learning process should be followed and therefore we only need notifying once a break in learning has exceeded 4 weeks.
  3. Usually, breaks in learning are only permitted where they are learner-driven, however, we are aware that there may be occasion where an employer who is following government advice may take action that results in an apprenticeship have to be paused.  In these occasions, a break in learning can be used where there will be a break of longer than 4 weeks. The normal breaks in learning process should be followed.
  4. DfE advises adhering to the current escalation process of raising EPA (end-point assessment) issues through EQAPs (external quality assurance providers) in the first instance.

DfE emphasised that there “is a need for everyone (employer, provider, EPAO, Apprentice) to take a reasonable and balanced approach in these situations and to recognise that the health and wellbeing of individuals is a higher priority than performance measures”. 

It is understood that the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) will shortly be publishing guidance for this area in response to potential disruption from Covid-19.

If you have any queries or concerns please do contact us and we can raise this with authorities and other bodies such as AELP.

In the meantime, there may be merit in members revisiting and updating their Business Continuity Plans to help them identify levels of risk and put in place contingency measures to ensure that the risk of business disruption is minimised.

Risks, as they stand, include: staff contracting the illness and being unable to work or close family members contracting Covid-19 and the family having to self-isolate, learners developing symptoms and learning providers having to close temporarily to deep clean or close for a longer period, employers seeing sickness levels spike and being reluctant to release learners for OTJ training or in extreme cases not allow providers access to their premises. There is a risk that learners may take longer to complete their learning and that providers might not be able to recruit employers or learners to profile. Both of these have scenarios might impact on provider cash flow.

As part of their business continuity planning, members at this time might wish to explore the scope for making greater use of IT and remote delivery, home working etc to overcome some of the issues associated with coronavirus

Alongside this, there are clearly some practical measures that providers can take within their own organisations such as increasing the frequency of building cleaning and communal areas in particular, making available more cleaning products (liquid soaps in the absence of sanitising products), messaging to staff and learners etc



Subcontracting Consultation Workshops

GMLPF is organising three small provider workshops, to be held at GMLPF’s Offices to consider the ESFA Subcontracting Consultation. The three events are designed to talk around the rationale for the subcontracting consultation, provide early-stage feedback from ESFA on each of the proposals (drawing upon the first 100 or so responses), discuss issues and develop a response to the consultation.

The three workshops are taking place on the following days:

24th February @ 12.30 – 2.00: Subcontracting and Sports Provision BOOK NOW 

2nd March @ 12.00 – 1.30: Subcontracting – the Subcontractor’s perspective BOOK NOW

4th March @ 12.00-1.30: Subcontracting – the Prime perspective BOOK NOW

Northern Skills Network – Official Launch

On 13th February 2020, the NSN was officially launched with a conference held in Leeds. It was also an opportunity to launch a new strategic relationship between the NSN and NCFE, who have joined the NSN Board.

The conference was attended by over 130 people representing training organisations, colleges, universities, stakeholders, Government officials and sector support companies. The Northern Skills Network is designed to provide a vehicle for flagging up skills issues that are pertinent to the North of England and feeding in intelligence to the Northern Powerhouse debate. Members should note that Jake Berry MP is no longer the Minister in Charge of the Northern Powerhouse. He has been replaced by Simon Clarke MP whose role will be to promote the Government’s “levelling up” agenda and Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, who will represent the Northern Powerhouse at Cabinet-level.

A  number of keynote speakers presented at the conference:

Roger Marsh, Chair of the NP 11 Network (11 N LEPs) and Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse, who both welcomed the NSN as a vehicle for setting out a vision for skills across the North and tackling the key skills challenges that face us. Collectively, the NSN and its 9 Regional Networks bring together 300+ providers who deliver some 45% of the N’s Apprenticeship programmes

Chris Morgan, Deputy Director of Technical Education, IfATE gave an update on the development of T Levels. It is clear that we have a long way to go in terms of developing and rolling out T levels. There are concerns about how the programme is compatible with the concept of social mobility, how T levels link to Apprenticeships and also whether T levels are sufficiently flexible to address local skills needs.

Chris Jones, Specialist Advisor to Ofsted, gave an update on the emerging findings of the first 6 months of Ofsted inspections. Key issues remain; the effective use of assessments, development of appropriate curriculum and off the job training. Chris also spoke about the publication of Ofsted’s recent annual report where the significant and marked drop off of Level 2 Apprenticeship starts has been flagged as an area of real concern.

The slides from the conference can be seen here

Alongside this, Ian Lomas of GMLPF, facilitated one of the workshops at the conference that focused on the ESFA Sub-Contracting Consultation. Paul Johnson and Chris Lews from the ESFA gave a presentation on the rationale and focus of the consultation. Following on from this GMLPF will be holding a series of small workshops for members on this theme in order to outline ESFA thinking, gather feedback and submit a sector-wide response to the consultation

The event was a resounding success and feedback from delegates has highlighted the need for a Northern based body or grouping of local Skills Networks to come together to undertake research and provide a voice for N Learning Providers, working alongside AELP who have the national remit.