For many school leaders, it may feel that opportunities to use the apprenticeship levy are elusive. There remains some confusion around its use, the purpose that apprenticeship programmes are meant to serve and how to access approved learning providers.
As we approach the two-year anniversary of the Apprenticeship Levy’s introduction, now is the perfect time to reflect on how schools can use this ring-fenced funding for professional development, find out about the programmes available and locate a suitable provider.
Who can be an apprentice?
It’s a myth that apprenticeships are only for school leavers and/or new employees. In fact, anyone can become an apprentice at any age, so long as they’re employed, working towards an approved apprenticeship and can undertake at least 20% off-the-job training.
Apprenticeships are designed to be used by existing and aspiring professionals. They’re developed and led by employers to ensure that the learning objectives and tasks suit practitioners undertaking the role the standard describes.
If school leaders are considering taking on an apprentice within an educational setting – outside of specialist apprenticeships, such as those for TAs – then it’s important to review individual training providers and check that their programmes have been contextualised for education. How will the provider support the requirement for all apprentices to have 20% off-thejob studying, in the form of reading and other assignments?
This time focused on learning can seem like a daunting prospect to school leaders more used to upskilling full time members of staff. Try talking to other school leaders in your local area who are using the levy to develop their existing staff; find out how they’ve managed the 20% off-the-job element whilst maintaining staff capacity.
The DfE-published document, ‘A guide to apprenticeships for the school workforce’ (see tinyurl.com/dfeapprentice-guide), explains in detail what apprenticeships are, how schools can use apprenticeships and how the apprenticeship levy applies to schools. It also covers whether or not your school should be paying the levy, and how to benefit from the levy if you’re a non-levy paying school.
A growing number of training providers throughout the country are now offering apprenticeships, a list of which can be found via the Institute for Apprenticeships (instituteforapprenticeships.org). There are many opportunities applicable to schools, including ‘Commercial Procurement & Supply – Level 4’, ‘School Business Professional – Level 4’ and ‘ Facilities Manager – Level 4’.
There’s also Amazing Apprenticeships (amazingapprenticeships.com) – an ESFA-approved communication channel commissioned by the National Apprenticeship Service which offers free resources and highlights apprenticeship vacancies.
The ISBL has itself led the development of several new apprenticeship programmes especially contextualised for the education sector, which include ‘Level 4 School Business Professional’, ‘Level 6 Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship’ and ‘Level 7 Executive Leadership’.
Apprenticeships give aspiring and practising school professionals the opportunity to combine practical training with study, whilst schools get to benefit from using their apprenticeship levy funding. At a time when schools are looking closely at their resources and ability to fund training, the levy provides a route that many school leaders have yet to fully explore. Rather than lose the opportunity, take time to consider how your school can use the levy.
Bethan Cullen is commercial director at the Institute of School Business Leadership