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Vocational Education: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN 142795, tabled on 25 January 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on creating an apprenticeship scheme for students on vocational courses who have been unable to attend in-person practical courses as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.

Answered on

4 February 2021

We are committed to supporting learners in Further Education to safely continue with, and complete, their programmes during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Following the announcement of a new national lockdown on 4 January 2021, our guidance for further education providers on restricting attendance sets out that providers should use their best endeavours to deliver remotely as much of students’ planned hours as possible. The guidance can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-further-education-provision. We recognise that this may be more challenging for some students, for example where a course necessitates the use of specialist equipment and supervision, or with respect to work experience and placements. Schools and colleges have been able to continue with the vocational and technical qualification (VTQ) exams that were due to take place in January, where they judged it right to do so. This may have been particularly important for occupational competence VTQs which can only be fulfilled through practical assessment, for example electrician. It was for providers to decide whether to put on the exam. If a student was unable to take their assessment this January, they may be able to take the assessment at a later date. In the event that is not possible, we will put in place arrangements to ensure they are not disadvantaged. Students have prepared for the assessments which are critical for them. It is right, given the importance, that those assessments were given priority alongside vulnerable students and children of key workers.

Apprenticeships are jobs created by employers which provide apprentices with high-quality on and off-the-job training. They will be more important than ever in helping businesses to recruit the right people and develop the skills they need to recover and grow. We have introduced flexibilities to support apprenticeship training to continue, including encouraging the remote delivery of training where possible, and have also introduced flexibilities to 120 apprenticeships to allow end-point assessments for these standards to continue. Where it is not possible and practicable for the apprentice to continue training, a break in learning can be used to allow the apprentice to return to learning at a future date.

To encourage employers to offer new apprenticeship opportunities we have introduced incentive payments for employers of up to £2000 for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25 as part of our Plan for Jobs. These payments were extended until the end of March 2021 in the November 2020 Spending Review.

We continue to work closely with employers and providers, and across government, to ensure a range of training opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to gain the skills they need.

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