Updated 11 February 2021

The Institute is committed to supporting apprentices, employers and the wider sector through these challenging and exceptional circumstances. We are remaining flexible to ensure that apprenticeships can continue, whilst also retaining their integrity. 

This guidance shows how our work is continuing beyond end point assessment (EPA) flexibilities and discretions.

If you have a question please contact us at Enquiries.IFA@education.gov.uk and we will come back to you as quickly as possible.

1. Apprenticeship external quality assurance (EQA) reform

Apprentices must pass tests to complete their apprenticeships. EQA is the system for checking these EPAs are of high quality.

The Institute announced its plans to move to a simplified EQA system in August 2020 following a public consultation. The changes will see EQA delivered by Ofqual or, for integrated degree apprenticeships, the Office for Students (OfS), and regulated by the Institute.

Where a standard is transferred from one EQAP to another we expect them to honour the flexibility/discretion in place and carry out their responsibility as the EQA. This applies to all transitions from November 2020 through our EQA reform process and future updates.

2. Funding reform

The Institute closed the second round of consultation on a proposed new and more transparent approach to making funding band recommendations in October 2020.

We published an update on this in December 2020 and are continuing work on the development of the planned new approach.

3. Furlough and redundancy

Please check ESFA COVID-19 guidance on this topic which covers specific issues that an employer should consider before enrolling furloughed staff on an apprenticeship. 


Where apprentices are furloughed, they can continue to train for their apprenticeship, as long as they do not provide services to, or generate revenue for, their employer.

Completion of EPA for a furloughed worker

EPA can still be completed for a furloughed worker. However, the apprentice must adhere to official guidance on furlough. If you are concerned that this would not allow EPA to take place, please see our guidance on EPA during COVID-19.

Redundant apprentices

The government policy on enabling redundant apprentices to continue their training and assessment to complete their apprenticeship has been extended. More information can be found in the following ESFA Update.

4. Route reviews

The Institute is required to review apprenticeships every 3 years. We do this through route reviews.

These look across the 15 occupational routes to ensure all apprenticeships and wider technical education are high quality, up-to-date and relevant for employers and apprentices.

We've made an active decision with employers to slow the pace the reviews because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While work is continuing, we are all too aware of the unprecedented challenges that employers involved are facing, so are carefully managing what we ask of them.

We published headline findings from the hair and beauty and creative and design reviews in January.  Fuller reports taking on board the impact of the ongoing pandemic will follow later in the year.

Work is continuing with the agriculture environmental and animal care, and engineering and manufacturing occupational routes. We recognise the need to be flexible in what we are asking of trailblazers.

No further reviews are currently planned.

5. T Levels information

The Institute has continued with the development of T Levels throughout the pandemic. Our goal continues to be to ensure that technical education is the same high quality as apprenticeships.

T Levels are different to apprenticeships as they are mainly classroom-based, but by involving employers throughout we are making sure T Levels deliver the skills our economy needs and set up students for good careers.

The first wave of T Levels launched successfully from September 2020. The second wave which will be available from 2021 and the third wave from 2022.

We are procuring contracts for the fourth wave.

The DfE and Ofqual announced in February 2021 that students will have the option to complete the core component of their T level this summer and receive an overall grade in August that accounts for the employer-set project and core knowledge.

Where a student has decided to complete the core component this summer, teacher assessed grades should be used to derive the core component grade.

The decision was taken following DfE/Ofqual consultation on awarding arrangements for 2021.

6. Higher technical qualifications

We will approve a new quality mark that will make it far easier for employers and learners to know which qualifications offer great training for highly skilled jobs.

Guidance has been published for awarding bodies, showing how they can take part in the new approvals process.

The approval of digital qualifications will conclude in summer 2021 and the first qualifications will be available to learners from September 2022.