Gillian Keegan MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills

Skills Minister, @GillianKeegan, has written to Jennifer Coupland, the Chief Executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships (@IFAteched), to offer strategic guidance for the coming year:

Jennifer Coupland
Chief Executive
Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education
151 Buckingham Palace Road
20th July 2020

Dear Jennifer,


I am pleased to issue you with strategic guidance for the financial year 2020-2021. This gives you a steer concerning the government’s priorities for the remainder of the year in the areas of apprenticeships and technical education reform, including the introduction of the first wave of T Levels and reforms to Higher Technical Qualifications and qualifications at level 3 and below. 

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (the Institute) must have regard to the matters set out in this document when performing its functions (the legal basis for the guidance is at annex B). I expect the Institute to include this guidance as part of its business planning process and objective-setting. I look forward to receiving updates on progress through our regular conversations and quarterly performance reviews, as well as through the apprenticeships and technical education programme boards. 

I would like to thank you for the significant progress the Institute made in 2019-2020, working with the department as part of the delivery system that puts employers right at the heart of our reforms so they take ownership of setting the content, and supporting the quality of both apprenticeships and T Levels. The COVID-19 outbreak has posed unprecedented challenges to the economy and the skills sector, including the work of the Institute. I am deeply grateful to the Institute and its staff for the work you have done over the past few months to respond to this crisis. This includes the introduction of flexibilities to end-point assessment, which is allowing a large number of apprentices to complete their apprenticeship, as well as continued preparations for T Level roll-out from autumn 2020. I expect the Institute to continue to work closely with the department, employers and apprentices to support the development and implementation of measures in response to COVID-19.

Technical Education in all of its forms will play a central part in helping our economy to recover from the current downturn. For the apprenticeships programme it is essential that standards attract a significant number of starts, enable career progression and include common work skills to support apprentices wishing to transfer between technical routes. End-point assessments should add value and be aligned with professionally recognised qualifications, and we should build on the successes of our COVID-19 response by continuing to promote the right flexibilities to employers.

For T Levels, success will mean that they offer a route to positive employment outcomes because employers recognise the programme as reliably delivering high-quality training. Students need clearer pathways in technical education and achieving this will mean reshaping the skills system to offer fewer but higher-quality qualifications that support clear paths for progression, including through levels 4 and 5. Finally, we have a responsibility to ensure that technical education and apprenticeships help address skills shortages, including those emerging as a result of the pandemic.

I expect the Institute to have regard to policy decisions made by the department and to make operational changes required to reflect and deliver policy. The department will work with the Institute during the policy development process to make sure that operational and delivery requirements are taken into account. Furthermore, I would ask that the Institute continue to support the wider FE reform agenda and contribute to the affordability of the apprenticeship programme by ensuring that the content, assessment plans and funding band recommendations of standards maximise value for money.

The Institute’s remit is England-only. There may be occasions where it would be beneficial for the Institute to participate in discussions with devolved administrations to address issues facing employers who work across borders, in accordance with its legislative remit and the priorities and objectives set out in its business plan.

The Institute should continue to work with employers and build strong relationships with government and other arm’s length bodies, such as the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), Ofqual, Ofsted and the Office for Students including through the Quality Alliance. I would also like to see the Institute work more closely with occupational regulators, such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the Health and Care Professions Council, to ensure that there is good alignment between developed Technical Education and the needs of regulated occupations. This may require you to build closer links with other government departments in collaboration with the Department for Education and I am keen to support you in doing this.

Similarly, you should work with, and where appropriate consult, other organisations who do not have a statutory role but represent groups with significant involvement or interest, such as awarding bodies, professional bodies, providers and assessment organisations. Finally, the Institute should engage with the Skills and Productivity Board, a new expert committee reporting to the Secretary of State for Education, and consider the committee’s activities in its forward planning.

I expect the Institute to deliver the priorities set out in annex A and to discharge its functions in a manner that is transparent and ensures that employers, and other stakeholders, are clear about its approaches, rules, procedures and the support it offers to engaging with the national skills system.

I look forward to working with you as you continue to deliver against these important priorities.

Yours sincerely,

Gillian Keegan MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Apprenticeships and Skills  

Guidance from the government on how the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education should carry out its functions for the 2020 to 2021 financial year.


Strategic guidance to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education 2020 to 2021 (print version)

PDF, 661KB, 11 pages

Strategic guidance to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education 2019 to 2020

Ref: DFE-00067-2019PDF, 462KB, 28 pages


The 2020 to 2021 document explains the purpose of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. It provides directions for the institute to consider when carrying out its duties to ensure quality apprenticeships and technical education reform.

The 2019 to 2020 guidance is available for reference.

Apprenticeship standards developed by employers are also available.

Published 27 March 2019 
Last updated 21 July 2020 + show all updates

  1. Added the 2020 to 2021 guidance.

  2. First published.

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