Government deletes controversial rule over apprentices' GCSEs

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The Government has formally abolished the five-year-rule, paving the way for GCSEs of any date to be used to complete an apprenticeship.

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The Government has axed the five-year rule, which had meant that many apprentices who had taken GCSEs more than five years before starting their course had to re-sit them

Yesterday, the department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) published a modified version of the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE).

This amended SASE document comes into effect from 6 April 2015 and will apply only to apprentices starting from that date.

However, it is still unclear whether the new rules will have any practical effect as the early years apprenticeship framework has not yet been amended.

While SASE sets the minimum requirements for apprenticeship frameworks, separate frameworks are then developed for each sector. The early years interim apprenticeship framework repeats the five-year-rule because it was stated in the previous version of SASE.

The rules meant that many apprentices who had taken GCSEs more than five years before starting their course had to re-sit them.

Ross Midgley, owner of training company PBD, forced the issue last year by taking the Government to the High Court. He said, ‘I strongly welcome the Government’s decision to abolish the five year rule and to widen the equivalencies which count towards an apprenticeship framework.  It’s a great pity that it took a judicial review to force this change. 

‘However, the battle is not yet over. Changing SASE makes changes to apprenticeship frameworks possible, but it does not automatically make them happen.

‘What we now need, urgently, is a retrospective amendment to the early years framework, so that people with older qualifications (which are already accepted for the EYFS) are not obliged to retake them just to get through an apprenticeship.

‘The introduction of GCSEs in apprenticeships was completely botched. ‘

A spokeswoman for BIS said, ‘We have modified the SASE for England to remove the requirement that GCSEs in English and maths at Grade B or C must have been achieved in the five years prior to the start of a Level 2 or Level 3 apprenticeship. Subject to Parliamentary process the modification will come into effect on 6 April 2015. This change will further simplify the apprenticeship rules for employers, training providers and learners and mean that new apprentices with a wider range of prior English and maths qualifications will not have to take additional qualifications.

She added, 'The legislation cannot apply retrospectively. Apprentices must meet the requirements that were in place when they started their apprenticeship.

'We are working with key partners to find the best way to implement the changes.'

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