This statistical release presents provisional information on all-age (16+) apprenticeships starts, participation and achievements in England reported to date for the 2020/21 academic year.
This update provides the latest available apprenticeship service data, along with additional analysis relevant to the COVID-19 outbreak. These official statistics include:
- Apprenticeship service commitments, registrations, and reservations
- Apprenticeship incentive payments
- Employers reporting the withdrawal of apprentices due to redundancy.
- Adverts and vacancies as reported on the Find an apprenticeship website
This update includes experimental statistics relating to the Skills Toolkit website on course registrations and completions (please see the ‘Additional Analysis’ section). Also updated is the separate downloadable file in the ‘View data and files’ section containing registrations and completions by provider and individual course (‘Skills toolkit course registrations and completions as at 27-06-2021’). This downloadable file will next be updated alongside our end-of-year statistics release in November 2021.
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.
Figures in the ‘annual time series’ and ‘public sector apprenticeships’ sections were published in November 2020 but included here for reference.
Individualised Learner Record (ILR) administrative data
The latest apprenticeship data in this release is based on the tenth ILR data return from FE and apprenticeship providers for the 2020/21 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.
National achievement rate tables data
Figures in the ‘national achievement rate tables’ section are as published in March 2021. These official statistics cover achievement rates for apprenticeships in the 2019 to 2020 academic year and would have been previously released as part of the standalone National achievement rate tables publication. As confirmed in our guidance, due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), we have not published institution-level qualification achievement rates (QARs) in the national achievement rate tables for the 2019 to 2020 academic year. We have published high level summaries of QARs for statistical purposes.
2019/20 achievement data update
In November 2020, achievements for 2019/20 were marked as provisional in the end of year release. This release was based on the 2019/20 final provider return, R14. This reflected uncertainty over whether providers were in the position to report final achievements for 2019/20 given alternate arrangements for exams and assessments which were in place over the COVID-19 period. Analysis of 2019/20 data at the time showed higher levels of records than normal being marked in the achievement field as ‘results unknown’ or being marked in the completion field as ‘learning continuing’. Given this ambiguity the results were marked as provisional pending further data from providers to clarify the position.
Reporting flexibilities were implemented to allow providers to continue to report achievements in the 2020/21 returns and analysis of the 2020/21 R04 return of those with planned end dates for 2019/20 as at R14 has found these learners had either gone on to achieve but have been marked with an achievement date in the 2020/21 period or have been marked as continuing learning beyond the original planned end date.
Please note that the ILR is an administrative system designed for financial reporting and does not offer the level of precision one might need to estimate real world impact from the disruption of the pandemic. The new analysis requires linking of learners across years which leads to a small degree of error and it is possible providers will go on to change records as reported at R04 in the 2020/21 data (which the analysis was based on), or add new records for the small proportion of learners for whom a link in 2020/21 could not be found in the R04 data.
However, given that the vast majority of records have been linked and found to have either achieved in 2020/21 or are recorded as continuing learning, it seems on balance appropriate to take provider reporting for the end of year return and for 2020/21 as a true record. We therefore will treat 2019/20 achievements published in November as a final record.
Comparison of achievements for 2019/20 with 2018/19 and with 2020/21 should also be treated with caution because the disruption to exams and assessments and breaks in learning etc will have led to less achievements in 2019/20 than would normally have been expected to achieve. Likewise, the 2020/21 year will have more achievements than would have otherwise been the case, given delays in training or passing assessments etc.
At the end of the 2019/20 reporting year there were a total of 54,500 records where the learning was expected to have ended but the outcome was unknown. Looking at the 2020/21 R04 data returns we can now confirm that 16,700 of those now have a known outcome, 29,400 are recorded as continuing learning, and 5,800 have completed learning with the outcome as yet unknown. Of those with a known outcome 14,400 have achieved. The majority (13,900) have an achievement date which falls in the 2020/21 academic year.
Provider reporting during the COVID-19 pandemic
The latest data in this publication covers a period affected by varying COVID-19 restrictions which will have impacted on apprenticeship and traineeship learning. 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.
Starts supported by Apprenticeship Service Account (ASA) levy funds
In our January 2020 Apprenticeships and Traineeships release (which reported the first apprenticeships starts data for the 2019/20 academic year) we changed our terminology from ‘Levy-supported starts’ to ‘Starts supported by ASA levy funds’ to better reflect what we are actually counting. We also changed our approach in calculating such starts. Prior to the January 2020 release we had been publishing the number of levy supported starts based on a match between ILR starts data have to information in an organisation’s ASA – this is known as the ‘data lock’, and is essential for payment of levy funds.
As this data match did not always occur in a timely way during the early part of the academic year this leads to an under-count when using this approach to identify whether a start is funded by the levy and could provide a misleading picture of the true level of such starts. To improve of the count for in year starts from January 2020 we started using an alternative approach based on a new ILR field that recorded the contract type an apprentice is funded through as reported in the ILR, which could be used to identify a start as being ‘supported by ASA levy funds’. As we progress through the year, providers update their information on the ILR and by the final ILR return the data lock issue should be resolved to allow payments to be made. From January 2020 we used this new approach for all in year reporting and noted that there will be no back series on the new approach in year, and that a time series would only be available for the final end of year data.
From 09 January 2020 the apprenticeship service was extended for all non-levy paying employers to register and use. This has led to a minor methodology change again for 2020/21 in how we count starts supported by ASA levy funds as the new ILR field mentioned above that records contract type now includes both ‘levied’ and ‘non-levied’ starts. To improve the accuracy of the count we now include we are using other ‘markers’ in the apprenticeship service to arrive at a better estimate now that we can no longer use the old method reliably. This particularly affects starts at the end of the year where it helps better identify potential ‘levied’ starts that have yet to generate payment in the system. Using this method improves the accuracy of our overall estimate of ‘levied’ starts figure, but it does potentially include small numbers of ‘non-levied’ starts.
The change to the approach in counting makes a minor difference to the actual volumes, but should be taken into account when making comparisons between 2020/21 and previous years.
Please note: the apprenticeship programme is largely funded by the apprenticeship levy, although an organisation can choose to fund apprenticeships themselves.
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 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 have submitted for the first time for 2019-20
- 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 provided 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.