Industry bodies and providers unite to prompt UK government agency @ESFAgov to avoid funding hurdles for apprentices identified as neurodiverse
ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency) has confirmed that it will continue to support funding for individuals identified as having hidden learning needs upon enrolment to apprenticeship programmes, following an appropriate assessment.
The Latest Apprenticeship Funding Rules can be found here.
Building on current regulations outlined in ‘Apprenticeship funding rules for main providers’, ESFA now confirms funding is available to meet the costs of putting in place reasonable adjustments, as set out in section 20 of the Equality Act 2010, for apprentices who have a learning difficulty or disability as defined in Section 15ZA(6) of the Education Act 1996 (as amended by section 41 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009) and thus require reasonable adjustments to complete their apprenticeship.
Before a claim for learning support can be made, the new funding rules state an assessment must be undertaken to identify whether an apprentice has a learning difficulty or disability. Any need for reasonable adjustments that arise from the assessment will need to be clearly evidenced and documented in writing, including an assessment of how progress would be directly impacted without the reasonable adjustments and a clear plan, signed by the apprentice, for delivering the reasonable adjustments throughout the apprenticeship.
ESFA additionally declares the need for reasonable adjustments to be reviewed and evidenced on a monthly basis, with claims only to be made in months where the adjustments are provided and evidenced.
The announcement marks a U-turn by ESFA, who had previously stated that apprentices would be precluded from accessing funded support if learning needs were identified as part of an enrolment process, amounting to a learner being required to show signs of failure or struggle before they could access support.
This change follows concern raised by multiple organisations including the AoC (Association of Colleges), Cognassist, Mencap, Train Together, Riverside Training, St John Ambulance, Bradford College and Learning Innovations and a consultation response led by the AELP (Association of Employment Learning providers).
Chris Quickfall, CEO, Cognassist said,
“We are delighted the ESFA has listened to the concerns of multiple parties and safeguarded access to funding for apprentices with hidden learning needs.
"We know that a significant proportion of learners enter apprenticeships with undiagnosed LDD. It is our mission to ensure these individuals are recognised and supported. We champion assessment upon enrolment as standard because, unfortunately, too many people reach adulthood without a clear understanding of how they think and learn, including any level of neurodiversity they may have. This results in needless barriers to learning which impact outcomes as well as contributing to mental health issues that damage the propensity to succeed through work and education. It is therefore important that society continues to support apprentices and their programme organisers to make reasonable adjustments as soon as a need is identified.
"We welcome the change of approach by ESFA and support the greater focus on how funding can best be used to support those with learning needs to ensure everyone can flourish in education and work. Education’s historical one-size-fits-all approach requires challenging and adapting to our current understanding of cognition. By shining a light on this issue through the strength of their response, it’s clear the sector is ready and willing to take on the challenge of ensuring no learner is left behind.”