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Created 08 April 2021 08:48
I've been trying to find a definitive answer to my question for some time and wondered if anyone has any thoughts before I try the ESFA helpdesk again.
We plan our 16-19 study programmes to contain multiple learning aims including work placement, qualifications, functional skills and non regulated employability skills. However the learning aims do NOT start at the same time - some won't start for months after the first learning aim starts. For example we will 'plan' for the learner to go on a work placement for say 360 hours starting 4 months after they have started other elements of the programme. At the point we 'plan' the programme and put the details in the ILR we haven't got an actual employer/placement for the 360 hours, just a 'plan' that they will have one in place by the work placement learning aim start date. We will then find (particularly at the moment with Covid restrictions) that we are unable to find them a placement so the work placement learning aim never starts. Obviously as no learning has taken place for the work placement learning aim we cannot submit it in the ILR return anymore. We feel that we should also remove the 360 'planned' hours as this particular learning aim never started and it wasn't fully planned, only an idea to do 360 hours work placement - no actual agreement was signed with an employer. We were advised to remove the hours by the ESFA helpdesk a couple of years ago. However the most recent funding guidance relating to planned hours suggests we should leave the 360 planned hours in the ILR as the learner has attended at least 6 weeks of the programme (not 6 weeks of the work placement though...) This doesn't seem right to me, we are claiming 360 hours for a learning aim that is not recorded in the ILR and the retention factor won't necessarily take this into account because the learner hasn't withdrawn from the core aim. Surely if this was the case then we could just 'plan' to do a work placement of x amount of hours with no intention of finding the learner a placement so we could claim the hours.
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When it comes to Work Experience, auditors have generally allowed us to keep planned Work Experience hours if it's clear that most of the cohort did do a placement. There's not set figure for "most", but if 95% of the class did Work Experience, and for reasons beyond our control, 5% didn't (including withdrawal before they got a chance), we've been ok. If half the class don't do it, auditors could argue that you never had a realistic plan. In our case, placements are usually far less than 360 though, more like 40. It's mostly only industry placements that are that large, and we don't include those planned hours in the funding band anyway.
If it were a different qualification, a classroom element we didn't plan to start until Easter for example, we'd remove the hours for that if they never started it.
08 April 2021 10:32