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Letter of Intent process for EPA booking

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Good morning. My name is Rohini Bhattacharya,
and I’m the Head of Apprenticeship Services for Pearson. Good morning everybody, and thank
you for joining the webinar on the Letter of Intent Process. Some of you might know
about this process already, however there are some new conditions which are coming out
for EPA organisations from the Education & Skills Funding Agency, and we just wanted to give
a quick, early heads-up to yourselves before we revise the process at our end, to make
sure that you’re aware of this before the changes are made. So a lot of you will be
following the Letter of Intent process already for the new standards, but just to recap on
what the Letter of Intent stands for, so the LOI as we call it, or Letter of Intent is
a commitment from Pearson to offer an end-point assessment service to our customers. like
yourselves, or indeed employers as well. As most of you know, the new standards are very
much in the early stages of development and almost all EPA organisations are still in
the process of developing their guidance instruments and their support proposition for the new
standards currently. Why we have introduced this Letter of Intent
process is to ensure that we have visibility on when the end-point assessments are due
for the different standards and also the volume of the EPAs. So internally we are very much
tracking when our first dates of end point assessments are from our existing customers,
and working towards making sure we are ready beforehand with all of the requirements to
deliver the end-point assessment. So in terms of the process that we follow, as a training
provider you would have signed a contract with the employer in order to deliver the
training to their apprentices. When you contract with an employer, in consultation with yourselves,
the employer also needs to confirm the EPA organisation who will provide the EPA for
their apprentices. I understand that in most of the cases they will be guided by yourselves,
as you’re the experts in the area. So this is very much a consultation basis on how they
choose their EPA organisation. Once you’ve signed the contract with your employers, you
should request this Letter of Intent if the employer has chosen Pearson as their EPA organisation.
So that’s a very simple over-arching process to request a Letter of Intent.
As a background to why we are using the Letter of Intent process, I thought it would be good
to bring you up to speed on some of the conditions which are being imposed on EPA organisations
from the Education & Skills Funding Agency. So the next few slides, I will just take you
through some of these conditions and its implications on our current Letter of Intent process, and
I will probably pause at the end of that to make sure if there are any questions, I can
answer those, for this section. So the Education & Skills Funding Agency have come up with
what they call the Conditions of Acceptance. The first published document came out in September
this year and this is a mandatory requirement for all EPA organisations to sign up to, when
they are actually applying to be on the register as an EPA organisation. The conditions are
also applied retrospectively to the EPA organisation, so for example we have been on the register
for a few standards since 2016. All of the conditions which have come out in September
of this year are also applicable to us retrospectively. Conditions are applicable across all standards.
Following the first publishing of the conditions document in September, there was a lot of
feedback which went back to the ESFA from different EPA organisations – there’s about
94 at the moment, total number of EPA organisations in the market – and following that feedback
the ESFA have now published version two of the conditions document, which came out last
week. So what are these conditions of acceptance?
They are a specific set of mandatory clauses for all EPA organisations to follow to ensure
that the public funding and apprentice needs are protected. It’s very similar to what you
have to do as a training provider in order to be on the register as well. There are a
total of 71 clauses to follow within this conditions document. I’ve just listed the
various areas that these clauses cover, so from readiness to promotion, actually maintaining
the quality assurance, there are a number of clauses within each of these areas.
So how do the ESFA conditions and the Letter of Intent link with each other? The Letter
of Intent process that Pearson is following is to make sure that we adhere to some of
the clauses which are specified under these two headings primarily: the promotion and
selection of EPA organisation, and the eligible costs. So those are the two key sections within
the conditions documents, which in order to operationalise those, we have introduced the
Letter of Intent process. What these clauses specify are number one, the timeframe for
EPA organisations to inform the ESFA on things like the details of the employers, the providers,
number of apprentices taking the EPAs, the dates they will be taking the EPAs on and
the standards against which they would be assessed on. There is another requirement
which is being introduced within this conditions document, for a contractual agreement to be
in place within the EPA organisation and the provider, and this is primarily to enable
funding payments to be made to the EPA organisation. So a lot of you would be familiar with the
template on the right hand side, which is essentially a revised Letter of Intent template.
We have revised this recently and you can see that we have got the EPA organisation
ID, which I think is required to go on the ILR now, and we’ve also changed the details
that we capture from you as a provider, around the end-point assessment that you are carrying
out on behalf of the employer. The specific conditions are going to be in operation from
1st December, which is next Friday. What that implies for you and us is that there will
be a revised process for signing the Letter of Intent now. Because of the need that the
ESFA have introduced within the conditions document of signing a contract with the provider,
there will be additional steps introduced within the Letter of Intent process, but that
will take effect from January. So I will go through the detail of the revised process
in a few minutes, but just to highlight to all of you as well that the additional steps,
there will be some changes again in January, while we get our contractual agreements in
place. As I mentioned before the conditions will be applied retrospectively, so please
do speak to your account managers beforehand if you want any more details. Your account
managers will also be proactively in touch with you and they would request additional
details once we have rolled out this revised process from January onwards.
As for the ESFA conditions, some of you might know this already, we providers need to record
the EPA organisation on the ILR. This is detailed in clause 16 within the conditions document,
and this would be for 2017/2018 onwards, so apprentices who have started within this academic
year would need to have an indication of the EPA organisation on the ILR. The ESFA also
asks for details of employers from the EPA organisations themselves. They also request
this information within a certain timeline, so within four working weeks of when an employer
has informed the provider of the EPA organisation that they are the selected EPA organisation,
we are supposed to inform the ESFA about the details of which employer they are, which
standards and how many apprentices and dates, et cetera, et cetera. This is an interim process,
is what the ESFA have said. The reason for the that being that the ESFA are increasing
the functionality of the digital apprenticeship service whereby they would be able to promote
EPA organisations on a per standard basis directly. However, in the interim the ESFA
want EPA organisations to supply this level of detail so they can double-check the ILR
details between what has been entered on the ILR by the providers and what the EPA organisations
are supplying them. So, bit of a cumbersome process, but hopefully it’s an interim solution
until the DAS gets up and running. So in terms of an additional step, what the
conditions document is also stipulating is that where a provider has chosen an EPA organisation,
so typically in the cases where your account manager has, you’ve informed your account
manager from Pearson about working with us as an EPA organization for a particular standard.
The conditions specify that the EPA should meet with the employers that the providers
are working with, in order to discuss and confirm the EPA arrangements directly. That’s
clause 18 in the conditions document. Now obviously, you as providers have that relationship
with the employers, and we are very happy to meet with the employers with you, together,
because we understand there are a lot of, it’s an involved process to actually deliver
good training for the new standard and make sure that the apprentices sign off at the
right stage, at the gateway stage, to then schedule their EPA. However, I think the reason
why the ESFA has introduced this clause specifically is to make sure that, because the EPA is quite
a complex, involved process that is also subject to changes, that visibility and that communication
and dialogue between the provider, the employer and the EPA organisation needs to start much
beforehand to make sure that the apprentice is not disadvantaged. We believe that that’s
really the rationale behind introducing this additional step.
So in terms of again, continuing with the conditions, the conditions document also stipulates
now that a contract needs to be in place between the provider and the EPA organisation. The
Letter of Intent process, for those of you who have been following it for a while, is
actually not a legally binding document and the reason why we had introduced that was
to give us the visibility and the details that we needed to make sure that we know and
we can track and monitor the demand for the different EPAs or the different standards.
So the contractual agreement which the ESFA is now asking us to sign with the providers
should need to cover all the following points that you can see. So the agreement needs to
have clear roles and responsibilities outlined for the provider and the EPA organisation.
It also needs to specify the schedule for examining funding from the employer to the
EPA organisation through yourselves, through the providers. It also stipulates that the
terms specify that the EPAs are actually delivering the EPA service on behalf of the employer
and the provider is acting as the agent for the ESFA in passing the payment from the employer
to the EPA organisation. So essentially because its either the [unclear word 00:14:42] employer
which is funding the end-point assessment, or it’s the ESFA themselves who are funding
the EPA for the non-levy pot. The contract needs to specify very clearly that the provider
is an agent working on behalf of either the employer or the ESFA. I’m going to pause there,
very slightly. I’ve got my colleague Claire Head, from the marketing team, who is potentially
looking at some questions that might have come through from yourselves, so I’ll pause
there briefly to see if Claire has any questions that I can help answering at this stage? We’ve got a question to say do you have a
template contract between Pearson, EPAO and TP, so training provider? Yes, we do have a draft contract at the moment
which has been ratified by our legal department, however because the new conditions came out
last week and we need to sign up to that, we need to make a few amends, specially around
the roles and responsibilities. So what we are proposing is that our contracts will get
ready to be rolled out from January 2018. So we can share that once we’ve reviewed that
template. Another question, as the EPAO is selected and chosen by the employer, what
contract or agreement is put into place between the employer and EPAO? The onus seems to be
on the provider to maintain contract, even though the employer is the one making decisions. Okay, so in terms of contractual arrangements,
my understanding is that that the training provider has a contract with the employer
for training delivery. For the employer to have a contract with the EPA organisation,
we will provide that contract template and the contract template clearly, the tripartite
contract between the employer, the EPA organisation and the provider organisation, and as I just
mentioned in the previous few slides, that tripartite contract would specify that it’s
a contract between the employer and the EPA organisation, with the money actually being
wired through the provider, which is yourselves, but all three parties could potentially sign
up to that contract. That’s all the questions we’ve got at the
moment. So I understand it’s a complex process, in
terms of the conditions document. Never easy to understand ESFA conditions, but if you
do have additional questions, please do add them to the chat-box and Claire will take
it away before the end of this webinar and we’ll come back with answers to this team
as well, again. So in terms of the revised Letter of Intent process, at the moment it’s
a minor revision, if you like. What you see on the screen there is a very simple flow-chart
in terms of what would happen as an amendment. The real change is in terms of the timelines
which we are introducing to turn around the Letter of Intent. So the pink boxes are yourself,
the training providers, and the blue boxes are Pearson.
So when you as a training provider or FE college, when you sign a contract with the employer
for X number of apprentices, that’s when you request the Letter of Intent from your account
manager at Pearson. If you do not have a contract with an employer, I think you will need to
await that contractual agreement to be signed before we can provide a Letter of Intent to
process. Once you have requested the Letter of Intent from Pearsons, your account manager
will complete the template, which is customised with the details that are supplied by yourself.
The letter is then sent to you to sign, from your account manager. You return it to your
account manager and your account manager would then counter-sign it and send you a copy of
the counter-signed letter. Once the account manager has filed that counter-signed letter,
we will send an email to the ESFA based the details that you have supplied to us, as per
the Letter of Intent template, that the ESFA would then log onto their system as well.
So the whole process that we now need to follow from the first blue box to the end blue box
needs to be completed within four working weeks. Your account manager, and our national
campaign manager who works very closely with the account managers, would need to be on
top of this process in terms of the end-to-end, to be completed within four weeks. So that’s
a very minor change in the process. You will be seeing the revised template for the Letter
of Intent but in terms of the timeline by when we have to turn this around by, it is
four working weeks, and we need to be on top of that.
So what are the additional changes we’re going to be introducing in January? So as I mentioned,
contracts will be signed with the providers. At this stage I’m suggesting that it would
be one contract per employer, per training provider, I will add there. Simply because
we don’t want to have a number of contracts for each standard, with a provider. So the
way we will design the contract templates is we will have a schedule which gives the
details of the standards and the apprentices, and any time an employer uses a new standard
or has more apprentices for the same standard we can just amend that schedule instead of
changing the contract. So that’s the proposition currently. It will have details within the
contract around the roles and responsibilities of both the parties and the schedule or payment
as we are required to outline. Your account managers will be fully briefed about this
in early January and they will walk through the contract with you and agree a time for
a meeting with the employers. It need not be right at the beginning of the apprenticeship,
however as soon as the employer has chosen their EPA organisation, we will want to sign
the contract, and soon after. That is when we should be agreeing what would be a good
time, depending on where you are as providers in your training delivery, to actually have
that discussion, that tripartite discussion between the employer and the EPA organisation.
So all of these details are going to be coming to you in January and we’ll do a similar webinar
in January to actually outline these changes and outline these details going forwards so
we’re all clear as to what needs to happen. I think that is it from me. Claire, just to
quickly ask again if there happen to be any additional questions that I can answer now,
or answer in the future? So we’ve got one come in. What happens if
the employer decides to move EPAO during the programme? There could be a number of reasons
for them wanting to move, such as an EPAO wanting to standardise their EPAOs. Okay, sure. That’s absolutely entirely possible.
You would need to give us ample notice on when that happens and we can terminate the
contract with the employer at that point. That’s entirely possible. There’s no more just at the moment. Okay. Fine, so maybe we’ll just keep logged
in for another two minutes, to half ten, for any more questions to come through. Is there a charge for changing or moving EPAO? There is no charge for moving EPAOs. What
I would say is it depends on where your apprentices are in their journey. So if, for example,
an apprentice has taken a few components of an EPAO and then the employer decides to move
EPAOs, it really depends on the EPAO organisation that they are moving to, in terms of how they
are treating the tests which the apprentice has completed already. For us, for example,
if we were to receive an apprentice who has completed a few elements from another EPA
organisation, we will look at what they have achieved within those components and if you’re
happy with that, we will only test them on the parts of the component they have not undertaken
within that EPA. Hence the pricing will be adjusted accordingly. So we will not charge
for the full EPA, we will only charge for the components that they are taking with us,
primarily. One more question just coming in. Just wait
for it to be typed. So just going back to the other question,
the previous question, I would say it really depends on the EPA organisation individually
so each, there is no blanket rule but what the ESFA conditions have stipulated is that
you, an EPA organisation should only be charging for what they have delivered. So as I explained,
we will only charge for the components that we test. Similarly, other EPA organisations
are also bound to do that now, as for the ESFA conditions. One more question’s come in. Is there an end-to-end
process flow diagram covering who does what from the Letter of Intent to the apprentice
getting their certificate from ESFA? We can definitely create one and share that
with the team. I will take that away as an action point for me to come up with, and your
account managers can get in touch with you to cascade that down. Another one, does this see the end to registration
fees like we see currently? Will there be registration fees for those standards where
an NVQ element is recommended in addition to EPAs? Yes, so, good question. Probably worth answering
and clarifying that as well. So my understanding of registration is it is specific to the qualifications
regime. The term registration does not necessarily apply to EPA, so what we are proposing as
Pearson is that when you book the apprentice for EPA, or when the employer books the apprentice
for EPA, we charge a ten per cent fee of our EPA up front. It’s primarily a booking fee,
we would call it. The rest of the EPA price is payable on completion, so after the first
date of the apprentice on the EPA, we will invoice you for the 90 per cent of the EPA
price. Now, in terms of when a standard has a qualification or an NVQ which is a mandatory
qualification as specified within the standard documents, that will be charged separately
and the reason for that is, again this is specified very, very clearly within the conditions
document, that we are not allowed to bundle or offer an end-to-end service for the apprentice.
So we can have qualifications or recommended qualifications that we sell, but our EPA offer,
our EPA service needs to be very, very different from any on-programme element to make sure
it is completely independent, i.e. the EPA is completely independent as such. So yes,
if an NVQ is part of the mandatory qualification, that is taken within the standard, then it
will be charged separately and that will be a normal process that you follow now, in terms
of the registration of the qualification and the payment of that price separately and up
front. One more question. How will certificates be
organised? Apprentice certificate, qualifications certificate and EPA certificate? So EPA certificate… Can you just repeat
the last bit? EPA certificate, qualification certificate and there was one more? EPA. EPA certificate and qualification certificate
were the only two types? I think there was one more? So apprentice certificate, qualification certificate
and EPA certificate. So on those three certificates, and again,
a good question, so if it’s a mandatory qualification that we are offering, then the apprentice
would get a normal qualification certificate like they do. There is nothing called an EPA
certificate. Again, the conditions specify that an EPA organisation can provide a notification
of results or a notification of outcomes for each of the individual elements of the EPA,
but we cannot issue a certificate. The only certificate the apprentice would get for the
apprenticeship would come from the ESFA and we would claim that, and that would be the
apprenticeship certificate. The ESFA have also laid down clear guidelines around what
we can put on that piece of paper that we provide to the apprentices for the notification
of results. We can call it notification of results, outcomes, whatever we call it, but
we cannot call it a certificate. We are actually at the moment updating our systems to reflect
that. We are, for each of the components, for example say professional discussion or
an on-screen test, we will offer a piece of paper which is an outcome or notification
of results of that particular element of the EPA, but the apprenticeship certificate will
come, and can only come from the ESFA. One more, just following on from the registration
fees. So providers will incur NVQ registration fees, EPA charges and Functional Skills fees? So Functional Skills fees, yes. NVQ registration
charges, yes. EPA fees is actually paid for by the employer. It doesn’t come from the
provider, it comes via the provider but from the employer. The Functional Skills fees again,
it’s a different pot of money it is being funded through, which obviously you would
know where it comes from and the NVQ registration fee. What we are saying is if it is a mandatory
qualification, then of course it can be paid for from the levy or from the ESFA if it’s
a non-levy pot, so again, you are funded for that, if it’s a mandatory qualification. There’s no more questions. Okay, great. What we will do is, Claire will
potentially collate the questions again and we will circulate the answers, the responses,
by email as well, to the group. I will do, yes. But if you have no more questions, then thank
you very much for your time and hope that has been useful and we will talk again in
January with the revised process and hopefully it will not be too cumbersome. So in the meantime,
do have a very happy Christmas and I will speak to you again in the new year. Thank
you. [Always learning]

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