20% Off the Job – A Lone Voice or Simply Have Nothing to Fear?

Peter Marples

Friday 20th October 2017

We are six months into the new funding rules and there isn’t a day goes by when I don’t read an article from someone complaining about how in-appropriate the 20% off the job rule is. I then take a look at some of the SAME providers complaining and see either they only deliver distance learning and have no delivery centres at all or indeed are more bold than that but promote on their web sites that ‘you never have to leave your premises or job to complete our Apprenticeship’. Not just small providers, but many large providers as well.

Yes, 20% is a blunt instrument but in my humble opinion it’s there to deal with a simple problem that has been brought about by providers themselves and never really addressed by the SFA and successor and prior bodies. It’s called ‘Assessment Only’ – practiced by many as ‘work based learning’ with clipboard in hand and with no teaching and learning going on. It’s actually never been fundable but the authorities apparently have never been brave enough to cut it out from the outset. In my opinion, it became the norm, not the exception for many.

You only have to be a sad sole like me and read OFSTED reports to understand that the 20% is there to cut out all the bad practice of the past where OFSTED have reported ‘there was no evidence of teaching and learning taking place’. It’s a pity they have really only just started to focus on this in the past 12 months or so.

  • It’s not an excuse to say the level of funding doesn’t allow quality teaching and learning – don’t do it then!
  • It’s not an excuse to deliver wholly through distance learning because you haven’t invested in delivery centres
  • It’s not an excuse to say, ‘that’s all old world and the modern world is about web chat’ to deliver the programme.

I was interviewing staff from a large provider this week to join us for our leadership and management programme delivery team – a little probing and it didn’t take long to understand their cohort size was 200 each, they worked from home, they never went to the employer and everything was done by web chat. The same provider was complaining quite vocally that the 20% off the job doesn’t work for their employers – Put simply, NO, it doesn’t work because your model doesn’t allow for any teaching and learning and is not compliant – but it sure is profitable I suspect !

I seem to be a lone voice. We have over 4,000 employers we work with each year on Apprenticeship programmes – levy and non-levy. Not one of them has an issue with 20% off the job – why? because we work with them and discuss and demonstrate the benefits of teaching and learning as well as work place mentoring.

We have already been subject to a levy audit by the ESFA – and yes 20% was a hot topic of probing. Not an issue for us.

I may be wrong and proven to be wrong in the future but for me:

  • 20% is not a blunt instrument really – it’s a clear message of an expectation of teaching and learning – you won’t get shot if you can only demonstrate 15% I suspect, but you will if you can’t demonstrate anything that looks like teaching and learning
  • The 20% will flex as the new funding rules embed – but let’s not throw out the principles which are sound and which I fully endorse.

As a provider, with scars on my back, we really are our own worst enemies. Our role is to support the principle of 20% off the job, apply it in terms of the spirit of the rule as much as the words on the funding guidance.

I, for one are getting fed up of people bleating about it when at the same time the very same providers are completing ignoring the intention of the rules and the spirit of what 20% off the job is supposed to represent. Clipboards should be thrown away but I fear unless the ESFA act soon, 20% will be completely ignored and we will be back where we started – ASSESSMENT ONLY !

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