Costing and Recognition of Prior Learning and Experience (RPLE), linked to recent audits

6 June 2023

Last month, Patrick Tucker, Director of Corporate Strategy, and Hannah Lloyd, Operations Director at Seren Skills ​​​​​​were delighted to host a session for Aptem that explored the challenges providers face in relation to RPLE, as identified in recent audits. In their presentation, they covered the following.

  • What the latest funding rules mean for RPLE?
  • How you should be identifying RPLE within your initial assessment?
  • Alterations you need to make to your training plan following the identification of prior learning.
  • Other factors to consider, including employer contracts and what is eligible/ineligible for funding. 

Q and A transcript

The following is a transcript of the questions asked during the webinar, along with the answers provided by product experts. For any further information, do contact your Implementation Consultant, Customer Success Manager or Aptem Support.

With regards to the shortening duration due to training plans, what if we adapt to stretch & challenge the learner, to increase the duration?

As per the answer given on the webinar, the key is to understand your delivery methodology and what it takes to deliver the ‘entire’ Standard with no prior learning.

When a learner changes employer, is a full initial assessment required, or can we just take off funding that has already been claimed? 

Yes, a full initial assessment should be completed to ensure compliance and employer involvement, and to demonstrate good practice. Also to fully align to the DfE (ESFA) Funding Rules.

Where a learner has completed part of an apprenticeship with another provider, but we are unsure of the duration they completed with the former provider and we have assessed that there is significant prior learning, can we enrol them on less than a 12 month programme, and can this be recorded as a transfer in? 

This question is rather complex and requires clear transparency from the prior training provider. If you are unable to clearly demonstrate prior learning, activity, Off the Job (OTJ) and Training Plan covered, a less than 12 month duration would not be advisable. As per the ILR return you would need the original start date of learning and the UKPRN number of the original provider. Please see the current funding rule P38 and P39 on page 21.

Re 50% in England, do we have to go back over apprentices signed up prior to August 2023, or can we just add that to the new intake for August 2023?

Where possible it would be good to have a new version to add to existing versions and get re-signed. For new cohorts moving forward this must be done.

We do reduce the costs for RPL but cannot reduce the start/end dates, as the knowledge often relates to learning in the middle of the course. How do others account for this and the impact on OTJ hours?

As per the answer given on the webinar, the key is to understand your delivery methodology and what it takes to deliver the ‘entire’ Standard with no prior learning.

Where can we find this document?

Due to the nature of the working papers the best course of action is to make full utilisation of the PDSAT toolkit – link as follows:

Is their guidance for how experienced as opposed to qualifications should be treated or do you simply have to justify this? If the current employer wants the part of the training that relates who has the final say?

It is a tripartite agreement demonstrating KSB’s and any qualifications must be justified in accordance with the funding rules at the time for that learner. This accounts for RPLE and APL, and also for Higher qualifications.

Are DfE audit questions and documents available easily/online?

Due to the nature of the working papers the best course of action is to make full utilisation of the PDSAT toolkit – link as follows:

Is Hannah able to provide a full copy of the questions asked by ESFA at audit?  Is this example taken from the actual audit working papers for 22/23?

Due to the nature of the working papers the best course of action is to make full utilisation of the PDSAT toolkit – link as follows:

For learners who have previously enrolled on a standard with a different provider, withdrawn and then been renominated with a new provider, is there a robust way to calculate the funding already received for the standard and consider this in the RPLE calculation for the new enrolment?

If it is a new enrolment with a new provider, you must demonstrate and evidence prior learning and experience / Off-the-Job (OTJ) previously delivered when considering duration and cost. This must be validated and evidenced through clear validation. Note – this is a long answer and may be better explained verbally.

How should we show the profit margin on the costs sheet?

As per the 23/24 funding rules – extract below.

87. The majority of main providers will operate on commercial terms and will expect to create a surplus (profit); a surplus ensures the financial viability of a business and can provide funds for example to fund ineligible costs, improve facilities and services and remain competitive. This is a legitimate approach to take. A surplus (profit) can be made on eligible costs, except for: 87.1. Items that are procured from external sources. For example, if £500 of materials are bought to be used in the delivery of training (e.g. perishable ingredients for catering apprenticeships), additional profit must not be charged on the £500 price of these materials. 87.2. Delivery that is procured from a subcontractor. Note that this only relates to the specific fees charged by that subcontractor; a provider can still cover the costs of managing the subcontractor under the eligible cost of ‘Programme governance, management and administration’. This please note reflects only to Main providers NOT employer providers. P87 page 54.

If the learner is on a 12 month programme and has 5% RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning), is it OK to only reduce the price and not the duration as if we reduced the duration the learner will then not meet the minimum duration?

The learner needs to meet minimum duration to be an eligible apprentice.

Enhancing Your Training Practice: The Power of Independent Observation

29 March 2023

As an independent training provider, you may feel like you have a good handle on your teaching practices. After all, you know your material, your learners seem engaged, and you’re getting positive feedback. But what if there was a way to take your teaching to the next level? That’s where independent observation comes in. In this blog, we’ll discuss why having an independent person observe your teaching practices can benefit your training, help you embrace improvement, and improve the quality of your teaching and training.

Identifying Areas of Improvement

One of the most significant benefits of independent observation is the opportunity to identify areas where you could improve your teaching. An independent observer will bring a fresh perspective and can pick up on things that you might not notice yourself. For example, they might identify areas where you could provide more detail or clarification, or they might notice patterns in your teaching that you can adjust to improve learner engagement.

Expanding Your Teaching Practice

In addition to identifying areas where you can improve, an independent observer can also help you expand your teaching practice. They might notice areas where you could incorporate new teaching techniques, or they might identify topics or skills that you could add to your curriculum. By taking these suggestions on board, you can provide a more comprehensive and engaging training experience for your learners.

In conclusion, independent observation can be a valuable tool for training providers. By embracing improvement and allowing an independent observer to evaluate your teaching practices, you can identify areas where you can improve, and expand your teaching practice. So why not give it a try and see how it can benefit your training practice?

Toxic Leadership: The Silent Killer of Organisational Success

22 March 2023

Toxic and destructive leadership is not just difficult for morale, it can also affect the performance of an entire team and lead to a whole organisation’s collapse. Toxic leaders have a tendency to focus on themselves and their own interests, it is not always easy to see toxic leadership in play, but the effects can be disastrous. Let’s explore toxic leadership and what is can look like.

We all know that toxic leadership can have devastating effects on workplace morale, productivity, and employee retention. This type of leadership style is characterised by a range of behaviours that are harmful to anyone under its influence. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of toxic leadership, its effects on the workplace, and how organisations can address this problem.

Toxic leadership is a style of leadership in which the leader uses their power and influence to manipulate and control their teams. These leaders often prioritise their own interests over those of the organisation, leading to a culture of fear, mistrust, and low morale. They may engage in abusive behaviour such as bullying, micromanaging, and undermining their subordinates’ efforts.

The culture of any organisation is shaped by the values, beliefs, and behaviours that are exhibited by its leaders. A positive and strong organisational culture, which is the result of good leadership, can have a significant impact on the success and growth of the organisation. A positive culture promotes employee engagement, fosters a sense of belonging and purpose, and helps to create a healthy work environment that encourages innovation, creativity, and collaboration. Furthermore, a strong organisational culture can also help to attract and retain top talent and improve overall business performance.

The effects of toxic leadership can be far-reaching. Employees under the influence of a toxic leader may experience decreased job satisfaction, increased stress levels, and a decrease in overall mental health. This can lead to higher rates of absenteeism, turnover, and decreased productivity.  Toxic leaders may prioritise their own interests over the development and support of their team members, leading to a culture of mistrust, blame, and fear.

It is important to acknowledge the impact of toxic leadership on teams and contrast it with the positive effects of effective leadership in the training and education sector. Effective leaders in this sector are those who prioritise the development, nurturing, and support of their teams, creating a positive and healthy learning environment for students and trainees. In contrast, toxic leadership can create a negative work culture that can damage the morale and productivity of employees. In the training and education sector, this can lead to decreased student engagement and achievement.

Organisations can address toxic leadership by implementing policies that promote ethical behaviour and providing training for leaders on how to create a positive work environment. This can include coaching on how to effectively communicate, delegate tasks, and provide constructive feedback. Organisations can also conduct anonymous surveys to gather feedback from employees on the workplace culture and identify areas that need improvement. In conclusion, toxic leadership is a serious problem that can have detrimental effects on the workplace. By implementing policies that promote ethical behaviour, providing training for leaders, and holding toxic leaders accountable, organisations can create a positive work environment that promotes productivity, collaboration, and overall well-being for employees

International Women’s Day

8 March 2023

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, Seren Skills Network is celebrating women in business, and more specifically, women in the education and training sector in the UK. 

This year, the theme is “Choose to Challenge”, and it encourages everyone to challenge gender bias and inequality wherever it is found.

In the education and training sector women have made significant strides and continue to push boundaries in their respective fields.

Dr. Ann Limb is one such individual. She served as the Association of Colleges’ previous president and is currently the chair of the South East Midlands Local Business Partnership. Limb has dedicated her life to enhancing educational and career prospects for young people, especially those from underprivileged families. As a supporter of lifelong learning, she has also promoted apprenticeships and is an advocate for higher education.

Another notable woman in the education and training sector is Dr. Hannah Fry, a lecturer in the Mathematics of Cities at University College London. She is also a broadcaster and author, and her work has been instrumental in making mathematics accessible and exciting to a broader audience. She is an inspiration to young girls who may not have considered mathematics as a viable career path.

However, we must also acknowledge the important work of women who may not have the same level of visibility as Dr. Ann Limb or Dr. Hannah Fry. These are the women who work day in and day out in classrooms and schools, helping to shape the minds of future generations. They are the ones who create inclusive learning environments, support students who are struggling, and inspire a love of learning.

One of the most significant achievements of women in the education and training sector in the UK is the increased representation of women in leadership positions. Women are now occupying more top positions in schools, universities, and other education institutions than ever before. Women leaders in the sector have brought about a significant positive impact on the learning experiences of young girls and women. Here at Seren Skills we are proud to have a strong female workforce that includes two female directors. We are also proud to work with some incredibly strong female directors, managers and those providing training across our networks. These females are strong, determined women who strive to inspire the next generation of leaders, managers and entrepreneurs.

However, we must also acknowledge that women in the education and training sector, like many other industries, still face significant challenges. The gender pay gap remains an issue, and women are still underrepresented in leadership positions. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these issues, with many women having to juggle work and caring responsibilities.

On this International Women’s Day, we celebrate the achievements of these women and promise to support them in their efforts to have a positive impact on the world. We must all continue to “Choose to Challenge” and work towards a more inclusive and equal world. 

Big News for Us! Good News for You!

12 January 2023

As we begin the new year, Seren Skills are delighted to introduce the newest member to our team, Rachel Moore, as Talent Acquisition Consultant.

Rachel joins us with over 25 years of experience with an Education and Legal background (specialising in criminality) and she will be spearheading our new recruitment business.

Rachel prides herself on providing excellent client support, building long-term relationships that will ensure we find our partners the very best talent to take their business to new heights.

Specialising in education recruitment but with a focus across the full business spectrum.

Rachel brings a fresh approach and with her calm, level-headed attitude will ensure the process of finding the best person for your role will be as stress-free as possible.

In her spare time, Rachel enjoys photography and loves nothing more than a spot of gardening and even some DIY although says she has no idea what she is doing and if it is successful, it is generally blind luck. Fun fact, Rachel used to drive Forklift trucks.

Please join us in welcoming Rachel to the team and connect today to see how she can help you find the next future talent for your business.

Think Tank

3 January 2023

Seren Skills Network hosted a think tank event exploring the need and impact of partial achievements’ within apprenticeship provision, asking – why are providers penalised and suffer a hit on QAR when a positive outcome of partial achievement can be recognised? And full achievement is of course the main objective, but should partial achievement for early leavers be rewarded? The diverse and vast apprenticeship providers Seren Skills Network works with throughout the entire apprenticeship provision life cycle have expressed concerns about the recently implemented ESFA Accountability Framework and apprenticeship Qualification Achievement Rates (QAR).

There was an overall consensus that the current QAR hybrid methodology is clearly no longer fit-for-purpose for Apprenticeships and needs to be revised. Providers informed that reputations are wrongly damaged, especially the apprenticeship brand in England, partial achievement is also not recognised for the learner and the world has changed dramatically, especially with recruitment and people leaving jobs.

Seren Skills Network wanted to contribute to the debate, with a range of stakeholders, in order to discuss and to provide a balanced, coherent and evidenced based response, representing the views of providers and employers. Seren Skills Network is uniquely placed within the sector, as it plays a key role in working within the Apprenticeship and Vocational Education and Training ( sector as advisors, influencers and subject matter experts working on the principle that organisations “don’t know what they don’t know”. More importantly, Seren Skills Network have been at the forefront of engaging with providers and employers to make sense and implement the correct Apprenticeship VET offer for businesses.

Mandy Crawford-Lee, Chief Executive at University Vocational Awards Council, Associate Editor of the journal, Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning, provided a keynote speech. The top table included of Mandy Crawford-Lee , David Marsh CEO of Babington, Brenda McLeish OBE CEO of Learning Curve Group, Nichola Hay MBE AELP Chair, Susanna Lawson, cofounder and of OneFile, and Sharon Blyfield OBE Head of Early Careers Coca-Cola Europacific Partners Limited.

The event was hailed as a success by participants and providers, with providers requesting further think tanks exploring other areas of need. A high-level report will be structured informing of the outcome/s of the event and will be an exploratory review of providers thoughts, recommendations and exhortations.

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