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Apprenticeship Reforms (England)

Apprenticeships in England are changing. The new ‘Trailblazer’ Apprenticeships are replacing the SASE Frameworks.

Apprenticeships in England are in the process of undergoing a dramatic transformation. As a result of Government reforms, a new style of apprenticeships has been designed to meet the changing needs of employers, learners and providers.

These new apprenticeships are known as ‘Trailblazer’ Apprenticeships. They aim to:

  • Give employers control in designing apprenticeships
  • Increase the flexibility of delivery
  • Simplify the funding system
  • Increase the effectiveness of training 

City & Guilds welcomes reforms which will improve quality. We’re committed to supporting employers, providers and apprentices to get the most out of the new Trailblazer Apprenticeships.

Background to the reforms

In 2012, the Review of Apprenticeships in England was commissioned by the Secretary of State for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS). The review aimed at identifying whether apprenticeships delivered the training, qualifications and skills that employers and learners needed.

The resulting report highlighted that a significant number of employers felt current SASE Apprenticeship Frameworks were not fit for industry needs.

As a result, the Government formed a strategy to redefine apprenticeships to meet these changing needs.

Visit the Government’s website to learn more about the Apprenticeship Reforms.


What’s changing?  

The reforms involve radical changes to the basic design of apprenticeships. New Trailblazer Apprenticeships put employers ‘in the driving seat’ in terms of designing apprenticeships and deciding how funding is spent.

There are several key areas of change:

1. New Apprenticeship Standards

New Apprenticeship Standards will replace the old SASE Frameworks. The Standards will:

  • Define an apprenticeship that lasts a minimum of 12 months
  • Be linked to a specific occupational level
  • Respond to employers’ needs, ensuring that apprenticeships are high quality and rigorous and develop the knowledge, skills and behaviour required for a specific job role
  • Be designed to prepare the apprentice for the (newly introduced) end-point assessment

Standards are created by groups of employers – known as ‘Trailblazers’.

Read more about the new Apprenticeship Standards

Components of the new Standards

Standards will contain the following elements:

On-programme training and learning

On-the-job and off-the-job training and learning need to develop the apprentice’s knowledge, skills and behaviours.

The key aspects include:

  • No mandatory requirement for qualifications (unless they’re a requirement such as a Licence to Practice (LTP), or are written into the Standard by the Trailblazer group)
  • All apprentices will be required to develop their Maths and English skills
  • Apprenticeships will cover behaviours, as well as knowledge and skills

Gateway to end-point assessment

Towards the end of the apprenticeship, employers and providers will ‘sign-off’ the apprentice as being ready for end-point assessment.

Read more about components of the new Standards

2. Introduction of end-point assessment

End-point assessment is being introduced as the main assessment method for all Trailblazer Apprenticeships. It replaces the SASE model of continuous assessment and qualifications.

This new model separates training delivery and assessment. It allows employers and providers to focus on training and learning and helps the apprentice gain the maximum possible experience before they are assessed.

  • Assessment methods – The assessment plan will outline the assessment methods to be used by independent assessment organisations for the end-point assessment   
  • Grading – End-point assessment will be graded. It will determine that the apprentice demonstrates the level of knowledge, skills and behaviours required in the Standard
  • Delivery – End-point assessment will be delivered by an Independent End Assessor, from an assessment organisation which is on the Register of Apprentice Assessment Organisations (RoAAO)

Read more about end-point assessment      

3. Reforms to funding

There is currently an interim funding model in place for Trailblazer apprenticeships. Funding for SASE Frameworks remains unchanged.  

The long-term plan

Funding reforms are still under consultation. We know that the Government’s long-term plan involves different funding methodology depending on the size of the employer:

  • Employers with a paybill in excess of £3million will pay an apprenticeship levy from April 2017 (levy-paying employers)
  • Micro-businesses and SMEs (non-levy-paying employers) will continue to be funded through provider allocations for the next few years. For Trailblazer apprenticeships, this will be done using the interim funding model.

From 2017, providers will no longer receive direct allocations to fund apprenticeships for levy-paying employers. Instead, employers will have control over how money is spent, via a digital system, and providers will draw funds via their monthly ILR return.

The Government’s intention is that from 2020, non-levy-paying employers will receive funding directly in the same way as the levy-paying employers. However, these timescales are subject to change.

Read more about apprenticeship funding, including details on the interim funding model and the levy. 

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Teresa Addinell

Director of Business Services, South and City College Birmingham.

"It is essential that my team thoroughly understands the impact of emerging policies of Apprenticeship Reforms on our approach to employer engagement and the messages we take out to employers.  City & Guilds provide excellent support in this respect, and are on hand to advise and deliver joint workshops on this subject to our clients which are always well received.”


How is City & Guilds helping you through the reforms?

Change brings challenge, and we’re committed to supporting employers, providers, apprentices and parents transition smoothly to the new Trailblazer apprenticeships.

We offer a range of bespoke and collaborative development and support services, including:

  • Supporting Trailblazers to develop new Standards – We’re currently supporting a large number of Trailblazer groups in the development of new Apprenticeship Standards. We aim to ensure their work meets the needs of industry and can be delivered efficiently and effectively.

    We’ve created a guide for Trailblazer groups to assist them in writing apprenticeship Standards and assessment plans. The guide includes best practice guidance on assessment methods.
    Read more about our work with Trailblazers developing new and emerging Standards

  • Developing new products – We’re currently developing a range of products and tools for providers and employers to make the transition to Trailblazer apprenticeships simple, efficient and effective.

    Learn about our current and upcoming apprenticeship products and services

  • Supporting you to understand the changes – We offer comprehensive support for employers and providers at all stages of apprenticeship delivery.

  • For education providers  –  We can help you design your on-programme training and learning, provide teaching and learning resources, and support you with transitioning. Read more

  • For employers  – We can help you to understand the implications of the funding reforms, and support you to employ apprentices. Read more
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Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS): Our 2020 Vision

“Nobody understands the skills employers need better than the employers themselves. That is why we are placing them in the driving seat. 

They are designing apprenticeships so that they focus on exactly the skills, knowledge and behaviours that are required of the workforce of the future. A levy will put employers at the heart of paying for and choosing apprenticeship training, and place the funding of apprenticeships on a sustainable footing. Employers will choose between high quality education and training providers, or be able to train their apprentices themselves.”

Extract taken from the report:

English Apprenticeships: Our 2020 Vision

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We've updated our provider reforms guide with the latest information on apprenticeship reforms and funding.


When is the switchover?

Some of the new Apprenticeship Standards are already in place and available for delivery. Others are being developed.

Once an existing SASE Framework is covered by the new Standard, the outdated Framework will be discontinued, as soon as it is practical to do so. There may be a crossover period where the old SASE Frameworks are still being delivered alongside the new Standards.

It's expected that the changeover will be complete by 2020, however these timescales are subject to change.


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