DfE Apprenticeship off-the-job training: updates for 2019

On 22nd March 2019, DfE released the new version of their Apprenticeship Off-the-Job (OTJ) Training guidance.

Nearly two years on from the original version, the guidance has more than doubled in size, but it’s certainly not just the size that has changed.

Having worked with DfE on one of the blended learning chase studies for the first version, we read the revised guidance – and in particular its sections on Recording and Delivering OTJ Training – with interest.

Here are our six key takeaways for colleges:

1. A preference for ‘more than one’ delivery method
Unlike the original, DfE explicitly state a preference for multiple delivery methods of apprentices:

As individuals have different learning preferences, good off-the-job training would have more than one delivery method (eg a combination of face-to-face delivery, online learning, mentoring.

Whilst not wanting to read too much into this statement, this feels like a fresh and progressive step forward by DfE, with the recognition and acceptance that difference ways of learning are helpful for apprentices. Here at Mindful Education, we welcome this stance which I trust will be a similar reaction within your college teams, with employers and with apprentices.

2. Wholly self-directed Distance Learning is not permissible
In the original June 2017 guidance, DfE were very clear that delivering solely via distance learning was not permissible. This revised guidance strikes a very similar tone, but there is a subtle difference to note in this new version:

… an apprenticeship must not solely be delivered by self-directed distance learning. This would make for a poor learning experience for the apprentice, as the learning is not supported in real-time by the training provider and there is no opportunity to give or receive feedback on progress.

The point to note here is that DfE are ruling out delivery wholly by ‘self-directed distance learning’ ie distance delivery which does not have any direct, real-time interaction with their training provider.

Whilst DfE are therefore unequivocally stating that all OTJ training must have regular and demonstrable direct interactions with the apprentice, they are balancing this with an appreciation that apprentices may well want – and need – on-demand learning.

3. 20% Off-The-Job Training can be undertaken in the workplace
This was made clear in the original guidance and remains so in this new version, with DfE stating that:

It is the activity, rather than the location, that determines whether the training meets the definition set out in the apprenticeship funding rules.

Given that there may well be quiet periods at work for apprentices, the ability for apprentices to access their studies wherever and whenever they want is therefore really valuable.

4. ‘Naturally occurring evidence’ is key
As before, the key phrase for tracking 20% OTJ training is ‘naturally occurring evidence’:

The EFSA do 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.

It’s clear from this statement that colleges don’t need to track every element of 20% OTJ, but instead should consider sensible points in the learner journey where data can readily be captured.

5. The plan is everything
The guidance clearly states the need to evidence the ‘upfront planned and agreed off-the-job training’, so ensure you have this in an appropriate format and agreement with the employer and the apprentice too.

A detailed delivery plan, clear expectation setting and an excellent induction is absolutely vital for any delivery of apprenticeships, but especially for blended delivery.

6. If it isn’t good blended learning… then beware!
As you’ll already know, OTJ training will be observed by Ofsted in order to “make judgements on the quality and its value to each apprentice’s learning experience”… therefore if it isn’t good blended learning then you will have to explain it to your Ofsted inspector!

Overall, the new guidance offers considerably more insight into the government’s stance on blended learning as part of an apprenticeship, with greater clarity and explanations. Even more than the original guidance, version two makes clear that DfE see blended as an extremely valid and desirable way to deliver apprenticeships.

By stressing that the quality and type of learning should be prioritised over the location and format, the hope is that colleges, employers and apprentices will all feel that the 20% OJT training is less of a burden, even if evidencing all this work might still prove challenging.

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