December 2020 update
This update provides the latest available apprenticeship service data, along with new additional analysis relevant to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Original November 2020 release
This statistical release presents finalised information on all age (16+) apprenticeships starts and participation in England reported for the full 2019/20 academic year (August 2019 to July 2020). Apprenticeship achievements reported are provisional (see ‘November 2020 achievements data’ below).
This release also contains latest data on commitments from the apprenticeship service. These official statistics are produced to provide transparency with regards to the apprenticeship service, an online service implemented in May 2017 that allows organisations to choose and pay for apprenticeship training more easily, and its usage.
Additionally, progress towards the public sector apprenticeship target after the third year of the four-year measure is reported for the first time, covering the period 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2020.
A separate release covers overall further education and skills data, please see ‘Further education and skills’. Please note that the overall FE and skills release includes the adult apprenticeships and traineeships published here in its headline figures.
Individualised Learner Record (ILR) administrative data
The Apprenticeship data in this release is based on the final ILR data return from FE and apprenticeship providers for the 2019/20 academic year. The ILR is an administrative data collection system designed primarily for operational use in order to fund training providers for learners in FE and on apprenticeship programmes.
November 2020 achievements data
2019/20 achievements in this release are provisional. In most years the end of learning and achievement planned dates for that year are not always met and related learner outcomes would be attributed to the next academic year – during 2020 the COVID-19 the pandemic may have led to more circumstances of this than usual. In 2019/20 there has been an impact on achievement data where the learner has completed learning but the provider has not been in a position to report achievement outcomes by the close of reporting for the year (22 October 2020).
Ofqual changes to assessment arrangements during the pandemic will also have had an effect, with some vocation and technical qualification assessments being adapted, delayed or rescheduled, with some students waiting to take delayed assessments from summer 2020 which they had originally planned to complete by 31 July 2020. Likewise delivery of End-Point Assessments (EPA) for apprenticeships will have been disrupted requiring coordinating entry to rescheduled assessments between provider, learner and end-point assessment organisation. Additionally, it should be noted the ILR collection is designed to capture data for funding purposes and is not geared to provide the level of detail to fully quantify real world impacts over the disrupted period.
As the ILR allows providers to record achievements in the following ILR year, we will look to include an update on achievements for 2019/20 in our January 2021 statistical release.
Of the apprenticeships we expected to complete in 2019/20, we estimate that 54,500 (23.3%) have been identified as having an unknown outcome at this stage on the ILR (with 44,100 identified as ‘continuing’ and 10,300 identified as ‘result not yet known’). There are uncertainties around whether these records will ultimate be marked as achievements for the 2019/20 academic year and whether the apprentice was ready to enter the ‘gateway’ stage ahead of the EPA, or whether some will reappear in the 2020/21 ILR as continuing learners (and so become part of the 2020/21 cohort), or whether some learners will be marked as withdrawing from learning.
A similar volume of unknown outcomes is observed when looking at adult (19+) learners undertaking education and training provision (essentially some form of ‘classroom-based’ FE learning), where of those learners we expected to complete in 2019/20, we estimate that 55,200 (3.8%) have been identified as having an unknown outcome at this stage on the ILR (with 47,100 identified as ‘continuing’ and 8,200 identified as ‘result not yet known’).
As noted, given the uncertainties around the impact of COVID-19 on the achievements data at this stage we are stating that this data should currently be considered as provisional, and we may not be in a position to resolve some of these uncertainties until January 2021 when we look to release data and statistics for the first quarter of 2020/21.
Provider reporting during the period affected by COVID-19
The latest data in this publication covers the period affected by COVID-19 and the nationwide lockdown, i.e. from March 2020 onwards (note: the UK lockdown was announced on 23 March so is likely to have impacted on, for example, apprenticeships starts from the last week of March). Therefore, extra care should be taken in comparing and interpreting data presented in this release.
The furlough scheme may also have impacted on how aspects of ILR data are currently being recorded, such as how the ‘learning status’ of a learner has been captured, e.g. whether a learner is currently recorded as a continuing learner or whether they are being recorded as being on a break in learning while still being with an employer.
Comparison statistics are provided for the periods before and after the lockdown and against the same periods in the previous academic year.
Impact of the apprenticeship levy
As of May 2017, reforms were made to how apprenticeship funding works, including the introduction of the apprenticeship levy and apprenticeship service. The profile of apprenticeship starts changed significantly since the introduction of the levy which, along with the introduction of apprenticeship standards (that are replacing frameworks), has impacted on the number and nature of apprenticeship starts and participation.
We have amended our approach to how we measure the number of starts we publish which are supported by Apprenticeship Service Account (ASA) levy funds (also known as ‘levy starts’). This has been necessary to address changes to collection systems to enable non levy providers to utilise the Apprenticeship Levy system for 2019/20 academic year. This change only affects data for 2019/20.
In terms of the methodology approach for 2019/20, we identify an individual as being ‘levy funded’ if they have been recorded as funded by the levy in either the ILR or the Apprenticeship Service system, or if the employer has paid levy at some point during the academic year. The reason for the changed in methodology for 2019/20 is because since January 2020 non levy payers have been using the Apprenticeship Service, meaning the methodology used for 2018/19 could no longer be applied to derive a consistent time series of only those apprenticeships using £1 or more of levy funds the ASA draws down against their levy payments.
Essentially if an employer has paid the levy at some point during the year any associated apprenticeship start in the year will be classed as a ‘levy start’, even though the apprentice could have been funded by the employer or could have been ESFA funded. This potentially incorporates around 20,000 ‘levy starts’ based on the ‘levy firm’ status, which may not have actually been funded directly by ASA levy funds.
The 2019/20 data therefore should be treated as provisional pending a fuller methodology review after which we expect to implement an improved method in our January release.
Public sector apprenticeship statistics
Public bodies who are in scope are required to submit a Data Publication and Activity return to the Department for Education each reporting year of the apprenticeship target. In their returns, public bodies provide self-reported information on the employment period and headcount relating to the target. The onus is on individual bodies to be accountable for their programme and to publish this information independently as well as report progress to the DfE.
The underlying data for the target release exactly replicates the information supplied by public sector bodies. As such, the accuracy of these submissions cannot be completely verified in all aspects, although certain validation checks have been undertaken and some bodies removed from the calculation of aggregated numbers and flagged in the underlying data.
Certain inconsistencies may appear between headcount and apprentice data submitted in each reporting year by an individual body. Some of these can be explained by a change in structure in the body (e.g. a merger).
It is difficult to give a completely accurate measure of the coverage of submission received. An internal mapping based on Apprenticeship Service account names has identified those that appear to be public sector but not all those flagged will be in scope (e.g. some will have fewer than 250 staff). Comparing the 2019-20 submissions with our mapping of accounts suggest that at least 60% of all public sector bodies irrespective of size, have made an official return. Further to this, linking accounts to starts recorded on the ILR suggests that over 80% of all public sector starts were in the bodies that have made an official return.
The group of public sector bodies making a data return in 2019-20 is different to those that responded in previous years;
- some bodies that submitted in previous years have not supplied data for 2019-20
- some bodies are submitting for the first time in 2019-20 returns
- some bodies have either fallen in or out of scope of the target based on the 250 headcount threshold
- multi academy trusts were not required to submit data in 2017-18.
As such, the aggregate totals for headcount and apprentices as at 31 March 2019 (the end- point of the 2018-19 collection and the start point of the 2019-20) will differ between collections. The same is true for the transition between 2017-18 and 2018-19.
Aggregate headcount and apprentice figures and associated percentages are shown separately for the start and end of each reporting year. In addition, an average percentage of employees starting an apprenticeship over the period of the target is calculated as a weighted average of the three reporting years so far
Further information about the data collection process, the public bodies in scope and the mapping of Apprenticeship Service Accounts to sectors, can be found in the technical information section of the November 2018 release.