17th July 2017
How should schools use their Apprenticeship Levy funds?
Schools that are looking to make use of their funds from the Apprenticeship Levy have a great deal of options open to them.
And, while there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for every educational institute, some avenues presented by the Levy could be particularly appealing.
In this guide, we’ll explore how schools can make best use of their Apprenticeship Levy funds and explore some of the factors that might impact their choices.
Treating the Levy as a tax
In the current financial climate, the purse strings are tight in many schools at the moment. Given the paperwork and admin involved in recouping Apprenticeship Levy funds, it’s tempting to simply treat the Levy as another tax and take it on the chin.
And it seems that’s what many employers are opting to do - with figures from the Department for Education recently showing that less than half of eligible employers have set up their Apprenticeship Service Account.
If you’re leaning in this direction, however, we’d urge you to think again. Many schools we’ve spoken to have laboured under misapprehensions about the nature of the Levy, how difficult it will be to spend their funds and the type of training they’ll be able to procure.
So without further ado, let’s explore just some of the things schools can use their Apprenticeship Levy funds for.
Factors To Take Into Consideration
Every school is different and the route you’ll opt for is largely based on your school’s individual circumstances, but there’s several factors that’ll impact the funding available to you and how you’ll be able to utilise it.
What type of school you are determines how the Levy applies to you, which will influence how you spend your money and indeed where the decision lies. For voluntary-aided and foundation schools, the governing body is the employer.
For community and voluntary-controlled schools and many faith schools, the local authority is the employer and so is responsible for payment of the Apprenticeship Levy for schools under their control.
In cases like these, the local authority will be the Apprenticeship Service account holder and will hold responsibility for procuring training and allocating funding.
Several local authorities have set up processes with varying degrees of formality to allow schools and other services under their umbrella to apply for funding. However, others have yet to enact any process, so will need to be approached on a case-by-case basis.
Multi-academy trusts are considered as a single entity for the purposes of the Levy and their overall governing body will be responsible for paying Levy contributions and determining how they’ll be distributed among constituent schools.
Some of the country’s largest stand-alone schools may also fall under the Levy, although varying payrolls can often mean they’ll be ‘edge cases’ that may pay the Levy some months - but not others. In cases like this, apprenticeships can be funded jointly via Levy contributions and government co-investment, and while it’s a little trickier to navigate - shouldn’t necessarily be off-putting for schools looking to get involved.
While the recent round of apprenticeship reforms have largely done away with age-related eligibility criteria - the government is offering incentives for employers willing to take on younger apprentices.
Size can be important, particularly in the education sector. Schools (and other companies) with fewer than 50 employees will be exempt from paying the 10 per cent required in co-investment when taking on apprentice between the ages of 16 to 18.
There’s also an additional £1,000 incentive (triggered at three and 12-month milestones) for schools taking on under-19s, while providers will also receive a one-off payment of £1,000 to help support apprentices they’re training in this age bracket.
Location, Location, Location
Where you’re based certainly plays a factor into what you’ll get out of the Levy and what you could spend it on. The Levy is a devolved policy and only applies in England, however, schools with staff that live over the Scottish or Welsh borders, but work in England, will still be able to use Levy funds to train these employees.
It’s also worth investigating whether your school is in an area where the government is offering extra incentives in the form of ‘disadvantage uplift’ payments for some of the country’s most deprived areas. Some local authorities are also continuing to offer Apprentice Grants for Employers until the end of the year, however, their availability and eligibility criteria can differ greatly from one area to another.
What do you need?
After you’ve pinned down exactly how your school’s circumstances will affect what you’re getting out of the Levy and how you can use it, the next most important detail is how you can best use this funding to support your school.
While there’s currently a dearth of teaching-specific apprenticeships currently available (a situation we’re helping to rectify with our work with Trailblazer groups), there’s a range of standards that can be used to fund the training of support and management staff in a variety of areas - from facilities to IT and school business management (via a standard like the Chartered Management Degree apprenticeship).
You could also opt to hold off using your funds until more education-specific standards land, although you should be aware that you’ll only have 24 months in which to recoup your funds before they disappear from your Apprenticeship Service account and are added to the general Levy pot.
Upskilling Existing Staff
With restrictions to do with age and prior qualifications being greatly relaxed under the latest round of apprenticeship reforms, it’s easier than ever to use Levy funds and co-investment to fund the training of your current staff.
Many schools we’ve worked with find this avenue appealing, since it removes the element of risk that always exists when bringing in new staff, as well as saving the money associated with recruiting someone new.
There’s other advantages too, not least the fact that you are demonstrating your commitment to staff members by investing your funds into their training and future. That could provide a welcome boost to morale and foster a sense of loyalty, which is obviously a boon when it comes to staff retention. Similarly, training up staff who already have the experience and knowledge of your school can only be a benefit.
Given that they’re already au fait with processes, there’s also more chance of new skills that have been learned being spread around your wider staff. On the flipside, you’ll want to avoid the implication that some staff are being treated differently to others by being offered the opportunity, which could cause resentment.
Bringing In New Staff
The alternative of course is to bring in someone new. This is the obvious way to go if you have identified gaps in your school’s workforce that need to be filled and which are at the level where they can be filled by an apprentice.
Apprentices can play a hugely important role in the way schools are run, whether they are in teaching assistant positions, or are support or back office staff, while the advantages of bringing in a new apprentice are clear, which is why the government have introduced the Levy.
As mentioned above, there’s always the risk of a new member of staff not working out, but in many ways hiring an apprentice is a safer bet in that respect - and the Levy funds make it even more appealing to take that chance.
Find out more
To stay up to date with all the latest on the apprenticeships that are available for you to either upskill your staff or bring in a new apprentice, you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
And if you’re looking for help managing your Levy or getting started with apprenticeships in your school, be sure to take a look at our school apprenticeship services today.