Apprenticeship reforms – Schools guidance

This information is about apprenticeships delivered by the school as an employer – not as a qualification for your pupils. It is intended for head teachers, school business professionals and bursars based in schools maintained by Surrey County Council as the Local Authority. However some information contained on this page may also be of use to those that fall outside of these categories.


Central government wants to improve the recognition, quality and quantity of apprenticeships across England. They have already committed to 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 and to help delivery of this, the following changes have now been introduced:

  • An Apprenticeship levy
  • Targets for Public Sector bodies
  • New employer-designed standards
  • End-point assessments to be introduced
  • Removal of upper age limit
  • Apprenticeships available for graduates
  • Access to apprenticeships open to current employees

Apprenticeships are now the cornerstone of the skills system and provide opportunities for all sectors, including education, and at all levels. The apprenticeship levy will boost our economic productivity, while increasing the country’s skills base and giving millions a step on the ladder of opportunity.

Apprenticeship levy

From April 2017 the way apprenticeships are funded has changed as part of a series of wider reforms to the apprenticeship system in England. Employers with a pay bill of more than £3m will be required to pay an apprenticeship levy. In England employers who pay the levy will be able to access funding for apprenticeship training and assessment via a new apprenticeship service.

Available funding can be used to meet the cost of apprenticeship training and assessment against an approved apprenticeship framework or standard. This can be for both existing employees as well as new starters. The training provider must be on the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers.

Who pays the apprenticeship levy?

Community and Voluntary Controlled Schools - In community and voluntary controlled schools, Surrey County Council is the employer of staff and will therefore be liable to pay their part of the levy and reclaim it back on behalf of the school in the form of apprenticeship training.

Foundation and voluntary aided schools - Foundation and voluntary aided schools typically employ their own staff so they will be responsible for paying the levy if their total pay bill exceeds £3million. These schools will be responsible for managing their own levy and digital account.

Academies - Academies will also be liable to pay the levy if their payroll bill exceeds £3million. All academies making up a Multi Academy Trust will be viewed together, so where the total payroll bill exceeds £3 million for the trust, academies will also be liable to the levy.

How much is the levy and how is it calculated?

The apprenticeship levy is a 0.5% tax on your total pay bill. Your total pay bill includes all employee earnings. In most cases this will be basic pay including any additional allowances.

Where Surrey is the payroll provider for an eligible maintained school, the school’s levy costs will be debited from their budget on a monthly basis, as a cost of employment, alongside other payroll deductions. Any eligible maintained school using an alternative payroll provider will need to make appropriate arrangements with their own payroll provider. Academies would make their own arrangements for payment.

Claiming back training costs against the apprenticeship levy

The proceeds of the levy paid by each employer, plus a 10% supplement, will be credited to a “digital account”, from which the employer will be able to arrange and pay for eligible training for, and assessment of, any apprentice starting after 1 May 2017. Funds that accrue in the online digital apprenticeship account will expire after 24 months.

Where community and voluntary controlled schools are combined with the county council for the purpose of the levy, the council will be the account holder for levy funds. Each school will need to make an application to withdraw the funding by completing an application form which is to be launched or accessing the portal once live. These applications must be made by the nominated apprenticeship coordinator within each school, if the application is not made by the named coordinator these will be checked to ensure authenticity.

Schools that do not pay the levy

Schools that do not pay the levy can still access Apprenticeship training at a reduced rate. The government will pay 90% of the cost of apprenticeship training and assessment while the employer will pay 10% of the training costs where:

  • Employers have a pay bill of less than £3m; and/or
  • Employers have used all the funds in their digital account.

Public sector targets

All public sector bodies (including maintained schools) with a headcount of 250 or more are required to have 2.3% of their workforce undertaking an apprenticeship. The target is based on headcount and there will be an annual duty to report on progress towards achieving the target.

The achievement of this target can be met by both new recruits on apprentice contracts and existing staff undertaking an apprenticeship.

The county council is responsible for reporting to central government on progress towards meeting targets for maintained schools.

Apprenticeship standards

Brand new apprenticeship qualifications named ‘standards’ are being created by groups of employers (trailblazers). The aim of these new standards is to ensure they meet the needs of employers, are fit for purpose, are more flexible and have an improved overall quality.

As the new standards become live they will be phasing out the existing apprenticeship frameworks (from now until 2020).

A key difference between an apprenticeship standard and framework is that the standard must be accompanied by an end-point assessment. This assessment is undertaken by a separate organisation from the provider that delivered the training to ensure it is impartial. The end-point assessment also provides an opportunity for an apprentice to more accurately demonstrate their competence, as they will be given a mark of either pass, merit or distinction.

A list of the relevant apprenticeship qualifications to school can be found in the attachment below. This includes both a mix of standards and frameworks. The most up to date list of apprenticeship standards and the status of their development can be found on the Apprenticeship standards: list of occupations available ( .

Many of the apprenticeship standards which will be essential for schools are being created. These include; Teacher, Teaching Assistant, Schools Business Director and Schools Business Manager. If you would like to be involved in the development of these qualifications you can do so by contacting the associated trailblazer group by searching for the apprenticeship title on the government website link above.

Next steps for maintained schools

We are planning to release funding for apprenticeship to our maintained schools from September 2017. However, if there is a business need to either employ a new apprentice or enrol any existing member of staff before then, please contact the Career Development Team who will be able to advice on next steps.

Online platform

An online platform is being developed to provide our maintained schools with an easy way to make applications for apprenticeship funding as well as acting as a central hub for key information and updates for all things apprenticeship. We aim to launch the platform in January 2018, however in the instance that this is delayed we will use the paper based application route (as attached) until the system is established. All of our maintained schools will be kept updated on the progress of this via their nominated apprenticeship coordinator.

Teaching assistant and teacher qualifications

The Teaching Assistant Apprenticeship Standard is now available and can be found below.  We anticipate that this qualification will be ready for delivery by January 2018. The Teacher Standard is still in development and is anticipated to be ready for delivery in September 2018.

Further information

Files available to download