Restart without agreed break

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This topic contains 34 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Neil Holcroft 1 week, 5 days ago.

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  • r012943


    If we have an apprentice on funding model 36 who withdrew from programme but has later returned to the same programme, would we handle the new TNP in the same manner as we would if it had been an agreed break? E.g. if original price was 3,000, would we also record 3,000 on the restarted programme aim? Or would this need to be reduced based on the funding already claimed – which I know is not what to do for an agreed break

    Also, will the off-the-job requirement remain the same as it was on original programme? E.g. 300 hours planned at beginning, 100 delivered before withdrawal so 200 deficit need to be planned to be delivered over the restarted period?

    Thanks very much


    Ruth CJ


    No, you need a new price. Recording the same TNP again only works for temporary withdrawals and restarts with the original start date recorded.

    My understanding is that you’ll have to do the full 20% of the new period, but I’m not 100% sure. It’s also been discussed on here the you’ll have to do a minimum 12 months again, even if there were only 6 months left when they withdrew. It all seems horribly unfair, especially when it was just a three week gap between employers, and they left because the first employer was being awful and they couldn’t bear to stay.



    Ruth, which is the thread in which that previous discussion about apps having to do the minimum over again took place? I’d seen it at the time and was intending to have a proper read once the dust had settled around it, but can’t find it now and – typically – have need of it due to a query that’s been raised with me here.


    Ruth CJ

    It was in this conversation. Gaynor had a reply from the service desk about it.

    It doesn’t cause an ILR error, and I’m sure we’ve been ok at audit when explaining the two durations in each instance added up, but the reply Gaynor had says we shouldn’t do that. I have actually queried this again with them, and we’ll see what they say.



    Cheers Ruth. If it’s based purely on something that the service desk have said and nothing’s changed within the guidance, I’m going to ignore it on the presumption that they’re simply wrong *again*. I mean, I recently had three responses from three different people at the ESFA, via a query raised with the service desk, each telling me that apprentices who are made redundant, are sacked or who resign can be recorded as temp withdrawals, which is blatantly wrong and directly contradicted by the new flowchart that they’ve issued.



    Hi Ruth

    I would be very interested in seeing what response you get from the Service Desk, especially as your learner was in the exact same situation as ours…..



    I too have email helpdesk for clarification.

    If the learner returning to the same apprenticeship cannot be classed as a restart but must be a brand new start then they will fail our RPL initial assessment as they will have too much RPL to give a duration of over a year.




    This was my point exactly. Talk about creating a barrier to learning!!….

    Please could you post your response from service desk to compare to mine.

    much appreciated


    Ruth CJ

    I got a reply. My question was;

    We have a situation where an apprentice quit their employer only 6 months before their planned end date (it was a 24 month apprenticeship). They had a gap of two weeks unemployed, then found a new employer to restart their apprenticeship. When that happens, the rules are clear that we must withdraw, and restart later.

    They only really need 6 more months of study, but according to the minimum duration rules, they will need to do another 12 months. This is significantly disadvantaging the student, and the new employer. We are also only able to claim the remaining 6 months of funding, to cover 12 months.

    Can we use the duration of the apprenticeship with the first employer, added together with the duration with the second employer, to meet the 12 month minimum, even if there was a small gap? It seems unreasonable that an apprentice would have to do an extra 6 months of study, just because they changed employer, and there happened to be a small gap in between employers. Whilst we encourage apprentices to speak to us before quitting, sometimes they just leave the workplace, and we can’t do anything about it. If we then insist that they do another 12 months, they might just give up entirely, which is not good for the apprentice.

    The answer I had from the Service desk was;

    [Quoted P249]

    No gaps in employment are allowed.

    When an apprentice wishes to ‘return’ to the same programme after finding a new employer- it is classed as a new start and the rules as for any new starts apply.
    You cannot enrol a learner onto a new 12 months apprenticeship programme just to meet the minimum duration requirement. Before any new programme start you are required to make an assessment of the learners knowledge and skills and keep that for evidence. If 12 months content is not required-it is not an apprenticeship and you will not be funded by the ESFA.

    The correct use of breaks in learning is monitored and if you do not use it in line with the funding rules, you will be questioned.
    Please refer to a June issue of Inform where paragraph 3 highlights the importance of recording accurate data in the ILR.

    We appreciate your comments however the funding rules are clear in that matter.

    This is quite a significant reply. I don’t disagree that what they’ve said is in line with the rules. However, I’m quite shocked that the ESFA would allow this barrier to learning for our apprentices. Essentially, if an apprentice chooses to change employer with less than 12 months to go, and accidentally causes a gap between employers (because obviously apprentices don’t understand the significance of just quitting with one employer and finding another), then they have ruined their chance to complete the apprenticeship. We should not allow them to restart.

    We’re going to have to make it ultra clear to our apprentices that this could happen.


    Martin West

    Hi Ruth,
    Had the same argument a few years ago but when I pointed out there was a difference between an ‘agreed break in learning’ and ‘a break in learning’ which could be a restart after a withdrawal, but both were then considered as such and allowed.

    The current guidance still supports this

    422. There are various circumstances where a learner may restart their learning, these include:
    • Restarts after an agreed break in learning
    • Restarts after a learner has transferred
    Restarts after withdrawing

    Restart indicator
    329. This must be used to indicate that the learner has restarted a learning aim or apprenticeship programme. The Restart indicator should only be used if the learner is returning to a learning aim they have previously started on, for example after a break in learning or if the learner has transferred from studying the same learning aim with another provider.

    331. If the learner has restarted their entire programme, then the Restart indicator must be recorded against the programme aim and all the learning aims within the programme that are restarted. If only one of the aims within the programme has been restarted, then the Restart indicator is only recorded against that aim.

    332. For learners who have returned from a break in learning, you should record the Original learning start date in addition to the Restart indicator.

    There is no indication in the Technical funding guide that a restart after withdrawing is classed as a new start, I can only assume that this new undocumented rule from the service desk is incorrect or has been made up as the system cannot cope with it under the new funding rules.

    As you say this will disadvantage learners who for various reasons want to complete their Apprenticeships. The only thing we can do is warn them that if they withdraw they may not be able to restart.



    Totally agree with Martin on this, Ruth. Whoever you’ve got that response from has demonstrated a fundamental lack of understanding of the implications to the learner of what they’re telling you to do, as well as effectively expanding upon an existing rule in something of a creative manner.

    Stuff like this would be so much easier to sort out if anybody from the ESFA actually paid attention to this forum nowadays. The service desk simply don’t understand the questions they’re being asked. The response you’ve received mentions breaks in learning. You didn’t ask them about breaks in learning.



    I mean, what about this situation? Employer goes bust. Apprentice loses their job through no fault of their own. Apprentice manages to gain employment in a similar job role with a new employer. Apprentice is, apparently, based on the response you’ve received, now blocked from ever completing their apprenticeship, because the training provider isn’t allowed to put them back on programme again for anything less than the minimum duration, but also *can’t* put them on for the minimum duration because the learner already completed some months of the app previously.

    It’s just rubbish.


    Ruth CJ

    The PSM has a whole section entitled “Recording restarts (without an agreed break in learning)”, so it is a restart. Like you’ve said, the guidance does support that. The issue is that we can only combine the duration before after after the restart to meet the minimum duration, if it was an agreed break.

    Just thinking too, this would presumably apply to an employer who wanted to change provider less than 12 months before the end of an apprenticeship? They get treated like new starts by the new provider. Is there any guidance that suggests otherwise for a change of provider?


    Ruth CJ

    I think they mention restarts because I mentioned that with restarts, we are allowed to combine the durations before and after the break to make the minimum. I took that bit out of the above question for the sake of brevity. I actually said;

    Can we use the duration of the apprenticeship with the first employer, added together with the duration with the second employer, to meet the 12 month minimum, even if there was a small gap? We ARE allowed to do that for a restart after a break in learning, and it doesn’t error because we record the original start date. It seems unreasonable that an apprentice would have to do an extra 6 months of study, just because they changed employer, and there happened to be a small gap in between employers.

    I totally agree that they are fundamentally wrong, but do I risk falling foul of auditors if I don’t follow this? Since we’re coding them with the restart indicator (which I’m clear is allowable), they won’t show up in minimum duration reports. As I said in the other thread linked above, I feel like I have managed to argue a gap and combined duration before.

    The actual funding rules say;

    P44 The only exceptions to the minimum duration requirement are where an apprentice:
    P44.1 Is made redundant with more than six, but less than 12 months remaining before their final day. In these cases they may seek a further apprenticeship agreement which takes their prior apprenticeship experience into account. This further agreement may provide for a duration of less than 12 months.
    P44.2 Changes their framework pathway / standard option.
    P44.3 Transfers between main providers, but remains on the same framework or standard.
    P44.4 Returns to the same apprenticeship after a break in learning. (See paragraph P266)

    So P44.1 and P44.4 are clear. P44.2 – Where a student changes pathway, we record the ILR as if it were a new start. P44.3 – I’ve answered my own question above about change of provider being fine. I feel like there should be P44.5 something like “Returns to the same apprenticeship after an unplanned gap in learning”.



    This is the reply I got from my ESFA email:

    If a learner returns to us to start the same apprenticeship after leaving the apprenticeship programme without an agreed break in learning. Will ESFA pay up to the full funding cap again?

    No, the original funding cap still applies if the apprentice is starting again on the same Standard or Framework.

    Can the original programme duration be counted towards the minimum duration?

    No, the apprentice must serve the full minimum duration again if they were withdrawn from the first iteration of the apprenticeship.

    Do we mark the learner as a restart without original start date as per the ESFA rule ‘restart (without an agreed break in learning)’?

    Yes, the original dates do not count against the new apprenticeship.

    If we did resign the learner and set the them as a restart. What if the RPL check comes back as now being too much due to the first attempt at the apprenticeship?

    If the learner that was 2 months away from completion and then withdrew, only the remaining 2 months of funding may be paid. After assessment you may judge the Programme as not being vialble for the apprentice to complete, given that they will need to be on programme 12 months and start the off-the-job training again.
    RPL effects the price, but the minimum duration must still be met in this iteration of the apprenticeship.


    Ruth CJ

    So the same thing again. They seem to be very sure about the duration issue. Thanks for sharing that.



    There’s a pretty obvious contradiction here. If any of the above responses from the service desk were actually correct, there wouldn’t *be* a section in the guidance called “Recording restarts (without an agreed break in learning)”.


    Ruth CJ

    Spats – Just because it’s a restart, doesn’t mean that you can automatically include the durations of the first and second periods added together.

    The funding rules gives a minimum duration exemption for after a “Break in learning”, not after a restart. All BIL are restarts, not all restarts are a BIL.

    I don’t think it’s contradictory, however much I think it’s a bad decision.


    Martin West

    The problem with Par P44.4 is the interpretation of the wording ‘Returns to the same apprenticeship after a break in learning’
    In previous year where it said ‘break in learning’ this was interpreted as either ‘An agreed break in learning’ or a ‘restart after a withdrawal’ but in the current rules they have added a reference to P266 which only covers ‘An agreed break in learning’ and you have to ask why this has been added and if it is actually relevant.

    P45 For the exceptions in paragraph P44 above you must have evidence that the total amount of time spent on their apprenticeship, which may include more than one episode of learning, meets the minimum duration requirement.

    It does not make sense to say a restart after a withdrawal is a new start but at the same time reduce the funding by any previous funding drawn down.



    Ruth – the contradiction I’m seeing is between the guidance being very clear that you can restart a previously withdrawn learner and the response you received saying that “When an apprentice wishes to ‘return’ to the same programme after finding a new employer- it is classed as a new start”.

    A restart and a new start are not the same thing. They don’t seem to get this.



    I have asked ESFA 1 more question in regards to all this.

    If the learner does want to restart, from the previous responses the minimum duration must still be met and the previous apprenticeship duration cant count towards it.
    So the planned duration of the new start must be over 12 months, but being a new start you must also analyse any RPL the learner already holds and wouldn’t you know it they have lots from a previous apprenticeship attempt.
    This then reduces the training price but also brings the planned duration under 12 months and then the learner isn’t eligible.

    So either ESFA recognise the learner is a restart or a lot of learners basically get one shot at the apprenticeship.



    Assuming that the advice given by the service desk in a lot of these cases is correct, the question has to be why?

    Why would that rule be in place which is so very clearly going to disadvantage a number of learners? What is the mission of the ESFA and apprenticeships and how on earth does this rule help them to achieve this mission?

    When a provider like 3AAA gets their contract taken off them and they have thousands of apprentices who have less than a year to completion, do they in all seriousness want to completely abandon those learners?



    When a training provider goes out of business then ESFA steps in and reallocates the learners.

    I suspect in this case they will tell the new provider what funding to charge and forgoes the gap in learning.

    Just this week we had an employer contact us who has received a letter from ESFA after their old provider ceased trading and they chose to nominate us to take on the learners.

    Will be interesting to see how the ESFA approach us and what in relation to funding we are offered.



    ESFA response to my last email

    If we did re-sign the learner that was on programme with us previously.
    ESFA Response:

    You would need to ensure that there was enough activity within the reduced apprenticeship to meet the minimum duration of 12 months, otherwise the learner would not be eligible to complete the the Programme.
    Where you account for prior learning and experience and the reduction of content would mean the apprenticeship would take less than the minimum duration to complete, or fail to meet the requirement for the apprentice to spend 20% of their time in off-the-job training, the apprenticeship is ineligible for funding.
    Please see the folowing on RPL:
    Recognition of prior learning and experience
    Para P58-P62 (Pg. 12)
    Apprenticeship funding rules 2019/20 – for providers

    So yes, if too much RPL then the learner is not eligible to restart.


    Martin West

    All I can say is that Apprenticeship restarts after a withdrawal have always been a restart from a break in learning and not a new start. I say again the wording ‘a break in learner’ has always been excepted as different to ‘An agreed break in learning’ and it has always been accepted that ‘a break in learning’ includes both a return after a withdrawal and a return after an agreed break in learning.
    P 45 and similar in previous years has always ensured that the minimum duration requirements are met as these are restarts and not a new start.

    I can only conclude that whoever at the ESFA has come up with these are now a ‘new start’ has little knowledge of the custom and practice of restart in the previous funding years.

    I think they must make it up as they go along as there has been no change in policy from previous years.

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