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Changes to Apprentice Standards Framework

The Government has announced changes to the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE) which sets out new standards for delivering high quality Apprenticeship programmes. Significantly they have introduced a new apprenticeship framework at HE level

The qualifications specified in the Higher Apprenticeship framework must be qualifications which are accredited by Ofqual to at least Level 4 of the QCF; additionally, a Higher Apprenticeship framework may include as theory/knowledge qualifications, or units, any qualifications which are known to give access to higher education programmes relevant to the sector.

A Higher Apprenticeship framework at Level 4 must identify either:

  • A competencies qualification at Level 4 and a separate technical knowledge qualification, each of which must carry at least ten credits on the QCF; or
  • An integrated qualification at Level 4 which combines competence and technical knowledge elements which are separately assessed, each of which must carry at least ten credits on the QCF; or
  • A competencies qualification at Level 4 which must carry at least ten credits on the QCF and a separate Foundation Degree or HND or HNC to meet the requirement for a separate technical knowledge qualification.

In addition, an Apprenticeship framework at Level 5 must also identify:

  • A Foundation Degree at Level 5 which combines competence and technical knowledge elements where the competence element is at least 50% of the Foundation Degree and where at least 50% is delivered through on-the-job training. Where the competencies qualification is a Foundation Degree, it must be endorsed by the Awarding Higher Education Institution as at least 50% competence based.

In each framework the off job technical knowledge element must contain a minimum of 280 guided learning hours in each subsequent 12 month period subject to occupational sector.

The changes, however, are not without complications. An apprenticeship framework consists of multiple learning outcomes. Where there is more than one qualification; the competence-based qualification should be nominated as the ‘principal qualification’. Additionally, the new standards have an expectation that each framework should have a minimum of 37 credits. This would put apprenticeship frameworks into the same size range as Diplomas within the QCF.

It is also required that where reasonable and relevant to the sector – those knowledge-based qualifications which may lead to higher education should be included in frameworks as an option. This progression route should also be clearly demonstrated by the allocation of UCAS tariffs to qualifications at Levels 3 and 4 within Advanced and Higher Apprenticeship frameworks. This is an area of contention with some university admission tutors.

Whilst a welcome addition to the Apprenticeship framework the capacity to deliver the taught element at levels 4/5 within the work-based sector, responsible for over 60% of Apprenticeship learning outcomes, requires significant investment from FE institutions including private sector training organisations in Tutor/Trainer development over the next two years in order to meet the expected demand.