In England, public sector bodies with 250 or more employees, including schools, are legally required to appropriately demonstrate how they have met (or attempted to meet) the public sector apprenticeship target to employ an average of at least 2.3% of their headcount as new apprentice starts up to 31 March 2021. If your school is in scope, you must annually publish and report to the Department for Education on your progress.
The Apprenticeships (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2017 came into force on 31 March 2018 and bring into effect the public sector apprenticeship target. To accompany the regulations, the Department for Education has produced statutory guidance but there can be a lot to get to grips with.
Here are three answers to frequently asked questions that will introduce your legal requirements:
Two factors determine if you are in scope of the public sector apprenticeship target meaning that you are legally responsible for apprenticeship reporting:
If you are a maintained school, such as a foundation or voluntary-aided school, where the governing body is the employer of your school employees, the governing body is in scope if it employs more than 250 employees in England (regardless of how many schools it controls). In this case, it is the body that is responsible for reporting on progress towards meeting the target for all the schools it maintains.
If your school is a maintained school and the employer of your employees is the Local Authority, and that Local Authority employs 250 or more employees in England, the Local Authority is in scope and is responsible for reporting on progress towards meeting the target. You will be expected to be included within the Local Authority target and you should speak to your Local Authority about how to contribute towards the target. Local Authorities are also permitted to set out progress in their schools separately in their annual return.
If your school is part of an academy trust or multi-academy trust that employs 250 or more staff in England, the trust is in scope. Academy trusts came in scope in April 2018, meaning that they need to legally publish and report on their progress towards the target for the first time from April 2019 (for starts between April 2018 and March 2019).
You may have had regard to the public sector apprenticeship target but still be failing to meet it. In this case, you should use the Apprenticeship Activity Return to explain how you have sought regard to the target, as well as outlining any factors that you feel may have hindered your efforts to meet it.
These explanations should provide sufficient detail to evidence your school’s actions. You should provide evidence which identifies where you have actively considered apprenticeships, either for new recruits or as part of the career development for your existing employees. In addition, you should identify where you have encountered and attempted to overcome challenges in employing apprentices.
It may also be the case that you have not met the target but are able to highlight mitigating factors which demonstrate your commitment to apprenticeships. For example, you might employ a higher proportion of apprentices on two or more year apprenticeship programmes, or you might be planning a major recruitment the following year which would bring the average number of apprenticeship starts up to or beyond the target.
Within schools, apprenticeships cover several roles and a range of education levels, from level two (equivalent to five to five GCSE passes at Grades A* to C, or 9-4) all the way up to degree level. Many now also incorporate a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.
Contrary to common stereotypes, apprenticeships are not just for young people and new recruits. It also does not matter whether they are already employed in your school or not. The core rules governing what an apprenticeship state that apprentices must: