The Insitute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (the Institute) has updated its plans for Covid-19 flexibilities.

These special measures apply to all apprenticeships. They have been introduced over the past 18 months to help employers, apprentices, and training providers continue with training and assessment despite successive lockdowns and ongoing changes to restrictions on movement and interaction.

The Institute has now decided to move back the date for when planned changes to flexibilities will be introduced from. The intention is to minimise disruption for the sector in early 2022 and maximise the number of apprentices who are able to complete their apprenticeships whilst quality is maintained.

The decision was taken after the government moved to Plan B of its Covid-19 response to keep the public as safe as possible from the Omicron variant and following engagement with sector bodies.

Three flexibilities will now be switched off at midnight on 28 February 2022, instead of the end of December this year as previously planned. These allow for:

  1. Changes to be made to who sits on the end point assessment (EPA) interview/discussion panel (when someone in addition to the independent assessor is specified) 
  2. Suitable evidence of achievements being used in replacement of functional skills qualifications at gateway (other mandated qualifications are covered under temporary discretions) 
  3. Extension to the length of the end-point assessment period (where specified) 

The other seven flexibilities will still be retained – but they will have to follow guidance set out in our new Flexibility Framework from 28 February 2022: 

  1. Observations taking place in simulated environments 
  2. Remote delivery of assessment (including invigilation)   
  3. Pauses being allowed between assessment methods during end-point assessment period  
  4. Assessments taking place outside of usual venues  
  5. Delivery of assessment methods in any order (when a specified order is in the assessment plan) 
  6. Exams/tests being online instead of on paper (where originally specified as paper based only) 
  7. Gateway sign off being done remotely (where originally specified as having to be face to face) 

The Institute has also published latest guidance around use of more than 60 temporary discretions which only apply to specific apprenticeships. Some of these have been granted a 6-month extension at the request their sectors. The others will now be available until midnight 28 February.

Rob Nitsch, delivery director for the Institute, said:
“Our priority remains the safety of employers, apprentices and off-the-job training and assessment providers, whilst allowing apprentices to carry on and complete their apprenticeships with minimum disruption whilst maintaining quality. We hope that the extension of the flexibilities for two months will play a significant role in doing just this and we will monitor the situation and make any further adjustments as necessary.”