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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  • JackB

    Hi Martin,

    I agree in previous years this was how restarts were treated and that is how I would like them to be this contract year too, but the ESFA responses are consistent and I have nobody else to ask, so now have to run with this guidance.

    I can only assume that in the eyes of ESFA, for a non-qualification based apprenticeship they consider the need for 12 months with 1 company paramount to get an apprenticeship from that company regardless where they worked previously.

    Is there anyone else we can turn to?
    This is going to leave a lot of learners very disappointed and lead to a lot of complaints I am sure.


    Martin West

    I do not think it is anything to do with 12 months minimum with the same company or this would apply to those who change employer, but it does not.
    It certainly is going to disadvantage any learner who wants to restart an Apprenticeship but until such time as this is officially published we cannot accept that it is policy despite the scripted comments from the service desk which as we all know is often incorrect.



    The next step would potentially be to explain the situation to your local MP, and ask them to lobby a change in policy at a higher level, because it is obvious this is now the response you’re going to get from the Service Desk.

    I hear they’re quiet this time of year…

    As Martin says though, make a decision on what you think is the best course of action, and whether you think you could argue that restarting the apprentice is the correct way to interpret the rules (as well as actually being the right thing to do for the benefit of the individual).



    This feels like somebody’s extremely misguided attempt to “maintain the integrity” of apprenticeships, completely unaware that in reality it does the opposite and just further devalues them.


    Ruth CJ

    JackB – The example where the apprentice transfers provider is an allowable exception. The funding rules say that, in that circumstance, you can combine the durations with each provider to meet the minimum duration. They just seemingly can’t go back to the same provider.

    Martin – I don’t agree that the term “Break in Learning” has ever been used to mean anything other than an agreed break. The terminology has been clear since the 16/17 guidance. There is a definition of “Break in learning” listed, and it’s the agreed kind. Do you have examples of ESFA guidance where they use the phrase Break in Learning to mean the non-agreed kind? A restart is different, and does include any time a student restarts a programme or aim.

    Agreed with Martin and Access, we should continue to do what is right by the students. The only place it would appear is the DSAT report about minimum duration, and that will have other allowable exceptions anyway. It won’t appear as an ILR error, because you should be using the restart indicator. The only time this would be questioned would be if you were audited. I suspect that most auditors would accept the combined minimum duration after a withdrawal and restart. They won’t have seen these replies from the Service Desk, and as Martin points out, it’s not explicitly in the written guidance that we can’t do that.

    On principle, I feel like this does need resolving though, and the ESFA needs to acknowledge that this is not the right advice. The AoC might have an opinion on the subject. I do believe this was not a deliberate policy, just the Service Desk coming up with an answer because they couldn’t find anything in the guidance that says we are allowed to combine the durations. There’s a chance that the policy makers would be horrified to find out the advice that has been given out.


    Martin West

    In the current ILR specification notes for the Restart indicator:
    This should be used to indicate that the learner has re-started a learning aim or apprenticeship programme.
    In 2015 the same said:
    This should be used to indicate that the learner has re-started a learning aim or apprenticeship programme. It should only be used if the learner has transferred from another provider or has had a break in learning.
    If the learner has re-started the entire apprenticeship programme then the re-start indicator should be recorded against the programme aim and all the learning aims within the programme. If only one of the aims within the programme has been re-started then the Restart indicator is only recorded against that aim.

    In this section ‘has had a break in learning’ was confirmed by the ESFA in 2015 as including ‘an agreed break in learning’ or ‘Restart after a withdrawal’ and we have all worked with this ever since.

    You may think that not relevant to FM 36, this is from the original FM36 guidance:

    5.7.3 Recording restarts (without an agreed break in learning)
    186. The following guidance applies in scenarios such as where a learner has withdrawn from their learning for a reason other than an agreed break in learning or transfer, and subsequently returned to learning on the same programme or aim(s).
    187. When the learner withdraws, their learning aims must be closed as in Table 1, and you must record an appropriate Withdrawal reason.
    188. If the learner later returns to learning on an aim or programme, then new aims must be created as in Table 8. The original learning aims must not be reopened.

    Table 8: Recording new aims when a learner restarts learning without an agreed break
    Field name – Programme aim – Component aims
    Learning start date – Date on which the learner restarts the programme – Date on which the learner restarts the learning aim
    Original learning start date – Not returned – Not returned
    Learning planned end date – New planned end date for the programme – New planned end date for the learning aim
    Funding adjustment for prior learning – Not returned – Proportion of the English or maths aim still to be delivered (if applicable)
    Restart indicator (Learning Delivery FAM) – Use Code RES1 – Use Code RES1

    This was never considered to be a New Start, what’s changed and how can a restart be a new start?



    Well the latest ESFA Inform point 4 is ‘feconnect ask the experts’.

    So I have emailed them this to look at.

    Martin I think you have boiled the issue down.

    When did a restart become classed as a new start?

    Especially when the rules still state to mark them as restarts.


    Neil Holcroft


    We have a learner who withdrew from programme in March, the rest of the NHS cohort subsequently went on a break two weeks later and she and they have now re-joined the programme in June.

    Looked back on last year’s thread, was there ever a definitive answer whether a short-term withdrawal would be treated as a new start? The 12-month duration wouldn’t be an issue in this case, nor would any potential prior learning/reduction in funding as they’ve not completed the 1st module yet.



    Ruth CJ

    There is now a grace period of 30 days, but in your case, that’s still a withdrawal and a “restart (without an agreed break in learning)” (P453-P455 of the Provider Support Manual).


    Neil Holcroft

    Thought so, thanks Ruth.

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