The ESFA recently announced more stringent rules to get on, and stay on, the RoATP. Will they work? Deborah Talbot takes a look at what’s changed.
Since the UK government created the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) in March 2017, concerns have been expressed about how far it ensures that apprenticeship training providers are offering quality of provision.
Commentators were surprised to discover that some of those listed in the Register were newly incorporated companies with no history of delivering apprenticeships, and, as Nick Linford explained in FE Week, “These companies on RoATP, many still with no apprenticeship delivery, can then be bought for around £50,000 as a way to gain access to public funding.”
Moreover, these companies had no trading history or filed accounts, Linford reported. Because the ESFA judged an application on “plans instead of track record.”
Worse still, it was revealed by the TES that a training provider was approved even though it was the target of a fraud investigation by the police, while the police arrested twelve individuals with links to UKRS Training.
The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has estimated that a third of training providers on the Register had yet to deliver a single apprenticeship.
So it’s unsurprising that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has announced tighter rules for joining the RoATP, which will reopen for applications on 12th December.
So what are the new criteria?
To be eligible to apply to join the RoATP, providers and employers must show that that have been actively trading for 12 months and provide evidence that they are financially stable and skilled in delivering high-quality training.
All providers who are currently on the Register must reapply in 2019, and they will be invited to apply in phases throughout 2019.
Main and employer providers will need to deliver training directly. Organisations that only want to operate as a subcontractor will need to apply via the supporter provider route.
Supporting providers will still only have to show a three-month trading history. However, from August 2019, all subcontractors will need to be on RoATP, including those delivering less than £100,000 of training per year.
Supporting providers will also be subject to a yearly funding limit of £500,000, limited to £100,000 in the first year if they have no recent record of apprenticeship delivery.
Providers who have been given an outstanding or good grade from Ofsted in no more than the three years before applying will be exempt from some questions on leadership and delivery management. This exemption also applies to universities funded by the Office for Students.
The ESFA will be consulting with the sector on other proposals.
But are these measures enough to deliver quality? Mark Dawes, CEO of the AELP, thinks they might.
“The new guidance on 12 December should tell us more,” he says, “but on the basis of our understanding so far, the ESFA are taking a balanced approach.
“It’s much better that providers and employers will now have to prove they have actively traded for 12 months, are financially stable, skilled and are able to deliver quality apprenticeship training, before they apply, rather than when they begin delivery.
“At the same time, we expect that providers with an outstanding or good grade from Ofsted will be exempt from certain questions on the leadership and management of their delivery.
“The end result should be that as well as no more opportunistic new entrants; we will say goodbye to those providers who are still not delivering apprenticeships and have never shown any intention of doing so.
“The hope is that we will then have an approved supply of good quality providers ready for all employers to confidently choose from.”
Richard Alberg, CEO of MWS Technology Ltd., however, cautions against over-consolidation of the training sector – though instances of poor practice need to be dealt with robustly:
“Learners and employers require and deserve quality apprenticeships, and as the custodian of public funds, the ESFA is responsible for ensuring high standards. But in pursuing this goal, it is also important to enable new market entrants and innovation.
“So while welcoming the higher bar and RoATP remaining open year-round to applications, I hope that the agency will allow scope for new participants to enter the sector and bring fresh ideas, recognising that those new to this idiosyncratic market will need a little time to learn the ropes.”
Most hope the measures will improve oversight of the apprenticeship training sector and cut out those seeking to exploit the system. But there is still much to be done to help deliver the high-skilled apprenticeships this country needs.
If you are considering joining the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers, you can download our eBook HERE which covers everything you need to know.
Deborah Talbot is Communications Officer at MWS Technology Ltd.