Challenging the Notion of Business As Usual

A number of members have flagged up a concern that funders and Ofsted believe that providers are much better placed to accommodate the challenges of lockdown #3 and that it is almost business as usual. This has been a notion that GMLPF has been keen to challenge.

In a recent meeting with Ofsted, GMLPF pointed out that lockdown #3 was throwing up a range of issues (raised by members recently) that were impacting on providers’ ability to deliver and complete training programme successfully, not least:

  • Lockdown #3 was seeing a significant increase in the number of staff and learners (or members of their immediate family) contracting Covid or having to self isolate and that this, unlike the other 2 lockdowns, was presenting a much greater challenge for providers’ ability to deliver learning as effectively as in previous lockdowns
  • Digital Poverty – whilst there had been some welcome developments in the ability to source IT kit and broadband access for students on Study Programme and AEB locally in the LCR other programmes such as Apprenticeships were far more affected and significant numbers of learners still lacked access to IT equipment to be able to learn remotely. It was made clear that providers had loaned out equipment where possible and were designing alternative approaches to engagement and delivery where learners did not have access.
  • Loss of Appetite for Learning – the increased prevalence of Covid, both positive cases as well as increased numbers requiring self-isolation, in the run-up to lockdown # 3 as well as the practicalities of managing lockdown ie home education has seen a decreased appetite for learning from employers and learners impacting on starts but also retention
  • Functional Skills and EPA – whilst acknowledging that there had been some freedoms and flexibilities Ofsted needed to be aware that in many sectors those flexibilities did not go far enough and that many learners were simply unable to complete. This could be because assessments needed to take place in a work setting which was now closed because of lockdown , work coaches were now deployed elsewhere, practical exams ie driving tests not being possible resulting in learners not being able to complete etc
  • Increases in Unfunded Learners & Increasing Risk of Learner Drop Out  – because of FS and EPA issues in the main, many learners were now unfunded (talks with providers suggests that this can be as high as 30% currently) which was impacting significantly on providers. This also raises provider caseloads as new learners come on programme. However, some providers have also reported that delays in EPA are impacting the motivation of learners to remain on programme and complete. In particular, this appears to be impacting Apprentices who want to move on to National Minimum Wage from Apprenticeship Wage and who are actively looking for alternative work.

I promised to provide an update to Paul Cocker and Bev Barlow around some of the above points. If members have any useful examples to share, in support of the above points, I would be grateful if you could drop me a short note and I can weave them in (anonymised) into the update for Ofsted.

The Redundancy Support Service for Apprentices

We know that the Covid-19 outbreak has had a seismic effect on the economy. Some apprentices have been made redundant without completing their apprenticeships, while others are at risk of redundancy. To support these apprentices, the Department for Education has recently launched the Redundancy Support Service for Apprentices.

The service provides clear, accessible advice and guidance to individuals on the impact of redundancy, their options and next steps.

The service is made up of three main elements:

  • Providing apprentices with advice and guidance on the impact of redundancy
  • Signposting apprentices to local and national support services
  • An apprenticeship vacancy sharing service to make redundant apprentices aware of new opportunities

Are you aware of an employer who would like to recruit a redundant apprentice or offer new apprenticeship opportunities? If you cannot help them yourselves, please ask them to visit Hiring an apprentice who has been made redundant or call 0800 015 0600 to find out more.

If you are aware of any apprentices who have been made redundant, and you are unable to help them, please encourage them to visit Facing redundancy during your apprenticeship or call 0800 015 0400 to speak to an adviser.

Please also share the YouTube video which provides details on the Redundancy Support Service for Apprentices, explaining what the service is, the benefits and how to access it.

There is also content for websites and social media, prepared for different audiences which providers may want to use themselves.

NCFE Update July 2020

This is the latest update received from NCFE:

Campaign for Learning and white papers

We’re delighted to confirm that Campaign for Learning, an educational services charity and policy influencer in learning, has now officially joined the NCFE family.

There is huge synergy between NCFE’s core purpose to promote and advance learning and Campaign for Learning’s commitment to ‘the advancement of education by encouraging the active participation of individuals in all sections of society in the process of lifelong learning.’ NCFE’s investment in the charity’s future means we can continue to work together for the benefit of the sector but with renewed focus, leveraging each other’s strengths in core areas of education to help engage more people in learning.

Our latest joint white paper to be published, ‘Revolutionary Forces’, is a joint commission of expert articles penned by leading authorities from the FE sector, as well as labour market economics, employment and mental health. The authors explore some of the key challenges facing the nation throughout the 2020s which the DfE needs to take into consideration when writing their recommendations. It urges the Government to ensure that the plans outlined in the forthcoming post-16 white paper are sufficiently flexible to meet the immense changes facing the UK economy.

3 Part Bid Support Webinars

We are aware of the challenging times providers face at the moment, with changing tender opportunities such as DWP or NSF. Join Steve O’Hare, owner and Director of SCLO Consulting, as he offers support on everything from getting tender ready, to finding great business opportunities and best practice for bid writing. These webinars are a free feature, delivered as part of NCFE’s new Go the Distance Youth Employability initiative – more details coming soon.

Webinar 1: Bid Support: Getting Tender Ready 

Monday 27 July


Book now

Webinar 2: Bid Support: Tendering 101

Monday 3 August


Book now

Webinar 3: Bid Support: Improving Tender Success

Monday 10 August


Book now

New Qualifications

Our product development team have been working hard over lockdown to ensure we have new, relevant qualifications to offer in priority sectors, especially where we know Covid has shown impacts on workforce and environment.

NCFE Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Climate Change and Environmental Awareness (603/5683/2)

NCFE CACHE Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Cancer Support (603/5860/9)

NCFE Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Coding (603/5854/3)

NCFE Level 3 Certificate in Coding Practices (603/5793/9)

NCFE Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Cyber Security (603/5853/1)

NCFE Level 3 Certificate in Cyber Security Practices (603/5762/9)

NCFE Level 2 Diploma for Customer Service Practitioners (603/5681/9)

We also have some qualifications that are on their way. See our coming soon page.

T Levels

Our T Levels teams have been working throughout lockdown to ensure we continue to deliver on our T Levels contracts. Wave 1 qualifications are now approved and released, as I’m sure participating wave 1 providers will know already. We have a large offer of support available for these including webinars and one to one curriculum consultations, as well as draft materials available on our website.

We are also well on our way developing qualifications for our wave 2 contracts. We have been working closely with providers and employers to ensure our content is suitable for market, and are proud to be working with employers such as Apple, IBM, Siemens, Fujitsu, techUK, Health Education England, GSK, Jaguar Land Rover and Skills for Care, along with many others.

We’re always happy to talk to anyone who would like to support on employer engagement or qualification development for our other T Level contracts, so please do encourage anyone to contact me if they would like to talk more about this.

Supporting the healthcare sector with free EPA

To recognise the incredible work from our NHS and wider healthcare colleagues during these trying times, we’re offering 1000 free end-point assessments (EPAs) for Nursing Associate apprentices.

As a leading educational charity and End-Point Assessment Organisation, we have chosen to offer this as a gesture of appreciation and to support Nursing Associates to progress into the workforce as quickly as possible. We are also very mindful of the extreme pressure on the public purse, so want to do what we can to help minimise this. Find out more or express your interest here.



LCR Taskforce and Youth Offer

The LCR Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) and DWP convened a meeting last week to set out its plans to support the city region’s young people aged 18+ who are unemployed or who are facing redundancy

As shown in our recent research and national studies too, younger people are most likely to be impacted by the downturn, especially 16 to 25-year-olds.

Accordingly, the LCR MCA and DWP want to help the 18-24 age group access appropriate information, advice and guidance. They wish to establish a network of physical hubs (across the LCR) to enable easy access, a virtual hub offering access to remote services and to produce a digital calendar of IAG activities.

They would like to know if members can assist by playing a role in

  • Encouraging young people to get involved with design and delivery by promoting the MMYAG?
  • Joining the LCR Youth Employment Task Force?
  • Delivering a virtual event for young people?
  • Promoting the Youth Offer once it is up and running?
  • Offering space that could host a physical youth hub regularly?
  • Providing staff that could work on an outreach basis from a youth hub?

They are also keen to pull together the digital calendar of IAG events to promote to young people. If you have any relevant activities planned, please complete the youth offer template and return it to [email protected] by Friday 17th July. It is the intention, I understand, to update this regularly and publicise the opportunities on a new LCRCA Youth Offer Portal. Hopefully, there will be an official launch on Monday 27th July.

Download slides

Outcome of Recent EIF Consultation Exercise

We are sharing a set of slides that Ofsted have provided on the recent consultation on the proposed EIF. Members should note that the consultation, Ofsted’s widest consultation to date, supported the broad thrust of Ofsted’s proposed EIF. There are, from reading the feedback, few material changes to the proposed structure and focus of the EIF.

Key messages from the feedback

  • Curriculum will be at the heart of the inspection process with less reliance on data. Inspectors will focus on curriculum design, coverage, relevance and delivery
  • There will be a new quality of education judgement and inspection handbooks have been updated. Interestingly a 1 year transition period has been introduced which will be reviewed at the end of the 12 month period
  • Ofsted have made amendments to the EIF to reflect that, specifically in relation to personal development and behaviour and attitudes, they will recognise providers working in challenging circumstances

(GMLPF will look to understand the practical implications of these changes on providers and provide more information)

  • It would appear that high needs or SEND learners and provision to support those groups will be graded separately rather than as a cross cutting theme
  • Ofsted proposed to introduce pre-inspection on site preparation to facilitate smoother inspections – this has been rejected
  • The timescale for re-inspection for those providers graded RI has been extended from 12-24 months to 12-30 months
  • Mental health is a recurring theme and Ofsted’s new EIF will look at the range of pastoral care that providers are offering in this area

GMLPF Member Survey – The Results Are In!

Thank you to all members who took the time to complete our survey last month. The results will help us continue to deliver the services you have said are particularly useful, and show us that over the past 12 months we have been on the right track in delivering what members need. Key findings can be viewed below.



Apprenticeships – national news

Transfer of levy funds

As of the beginning of April, Levy paying employers can now transfer up to 25% of their annual levy funds to other organisations to use for apprenticeships training and assessment. Previously the transfer limit was 10%. Certain conditions apply.

Guidance on levy transfer


Decrease in co-investment rate for non-levy payers

From 1st April, non-levy paying employers will be required to make just a 5% contribution to training and assessment costs for their apprentices, with the Government covering 95% costs. Previously employers were required to make 10% contribution


Fire it Up Communications Toolkit

Some providers linked in with the national apprenticeship Fire It Up campaign during National Apprenticeship Week by adopting the modified apprenticeships logo and linking in with other aspects of the campaign. The Fire It Up campaign is ongoing and there are full branding guidelines available to download with links to logos.

Download branding guidelines

Liverpool City Council NEET Reduction Strategy

LIverpool Provider Network facilitated a workshop last week to consider and discuss the recently published Liverpool City Council draft NEET Reduction Strategy; “Inspiring:Engaging:Progressing”

Following the workshop, GMLPF has produced a draft consultation response incorporating members’ views. Anybody wishing to add further comments can do by e-mailing [email protected] by midday Wednesday 6th March.

Download LPN/GMLPF Response to draft LCC Inspiring Engaging Progressing Strategy