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Posted on: March 31st 2020

COVID-19, Apprenticeships and Accountancy Learning’s response

Unlike a traditional College set up, our training is designed for working with students from a distance. We are therefore able to continue to provide tutor support “as normal” over this period of uncertainty and social distancing.

The Key Points:

During these difficult times, it is a case of “business as usual” (almost!) regarding the delivery of our Apprenticeship training:

  • Learning Materials: Our learning materials are all online and study manuals can be delivered directly to individual students at their home address.
  • Support: Our tutor and administration teams have set up their ‘home’ workstations and are using VOIP phones and Office 365 along with ‘Teams’ to keep in touch with one another. In this respect, you should notice no difference to our continued support for your Apprentices.
  • Furlough: Where an apprentice has been furloughed, they are still in ‘paid employment’ and so can devote their time to studies and working on their portfolios.
  • Apprenticeship starts: Even new Apprenticeship starts can be completed remotely using the new Apprenticeship platform ‘Bud’ – we have already successfully processed 2 new Apprenticeship starts.
  • Progressions: AAT Level 3, Professional Discussions  are now scheduled and performed remotely on the new AAT SEPA system - the AAT have confirmed that apprentices can perform their Professional Discussion from their home. Following this, (provided the synoptic exam has been completed), we will be able to complete the Apprenticeship and get the apprentice “signed up” on their Level 4 without interruption.
  • AAT Exams: Until normal services have resumed, Apprentices should liaise with their tutor to amend their learning plan to reflect the probable need to study more than one exam subject at a time. The AAT are looking into rescheduling the April/May synoptic exams window.

Ensuring the continuity of our normal course delivery – the finer details

Learning Materials:
Not only do we have our virtual learning environment for apprentices to access their interactive on-line learning materials but, additionally, they have the use of traditional study manuals at Level 3 and 4. The publishers have confirmed that they are able to continue supplying these and have agreed to post text books directly to apprentices at home. However, when ordering manuals, apprentices do need to confirm the address that they want them sent to. The AAT on-line study resources are also still available.

Tutor Support:
From the beginning March, we had established a pattern of home working with all of our team. (Some of our distance learning tutors have always worked from home.)

Our telephones operate using a VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system, so they work from home in exactly the same way as they do when we are all working in the office – we’ve been using it for the past fortnight and it works perfectly.

We are also using Office 365, so we are able to access all the documents we need remotely. For those not familiar with Office 365, there is a ‘Teams app’ that enables us to have our usual ‘first thing in the morning’ briefings (a bit like Skype or Zoom) as well as all our other ‘team meetings’. There is also a ‘chat’ facility to liaise with another as needed. We are also touching base late afternoon to review the highlights of the day, plan the following day’s “main task” and to maintain morale.

All our tutors are super qualified and experienced in helping and supporting students remotely to ensure they continue to progress through their studies. We always try to maintain regular contact with apprentices, however, in between times, it is important that they contact their personal tutor directly if they have any study query – that’s what we are here for. What tutors like even more is to receive a steady flow of progress tests and practice assessments from their personal tutor group for marking and feedback. These marked tests are the “proof of the pudding” in terms of measuring study progress.

In summary, apprentices should have access to all of the learning materials and tutor support they need to maintain their studies and keep to their learning plan. When you contact or phone us, you shouldn’t notice any difference at all (although please bear with us -  many of us in the office are ‘cat lovers’, so you may hear the odd ‘miaow’ in the background!)

Furloughed workers

Where an apprentice has been furloughed, they are still in ‘paid employment’ and so can devote their time to studies and working on their portfolios. This approach is supported by AELP (The Association of Education and Learning Providers).  There will be plenty to write about – and all very relevant to the Learning Outcomes in the Apprenticeship Standards. They must not forget to record all of this “off the job training” on their off the job training log on Googledrive. Kate will be monitoring this!?!

New starts and progressions

Earlier this year, we implemented a new Apprenticeship platform (Bud), which is an on-line platform that allows us to record progress reviews remotely and even process new starts. In fact we have recently enrolled and signed up two new apprentices on this system. Tutors can do this by using the Office 365 Teams video function on one screen and the Bud “paperwork” function on the other, with Bud also allowing digital signatures. This has worked really well.

The Professional Discussion is now performed on the new AAT SEPA system, this can be scheduled and performed remotely. The AAT have confirmed that apprentices can perform their Professional Discussion (PD) from their home. For Level 3 Apprentices, we will therefore be able to complete their Apprenticeship and get them “signed up” on their Level 4 without interruption, once the PD has been completed, (provided they have completed their Synoptic exam).

For those of who were planning to sit their Synoptic in April / May, we are recommending that they complete their Professional Discussion prior to then so that they only have the Synoptic exam left to do after lockdown ends. Provided they have completed their PD, their Apprenticeship Gateway will have been reached and we will able to allow them to start studying for Level 4 - we will not want them to get out of the habit of studying!!

AAT Exams

As you will be aware, the AAT have cancelled all exams until further notice. Apprentices should liaise with their tutor to revise their learning plan to reflect the probable need to study more than one exam subject at a time. Although they have been able to sit exams one at a time and on demand for some years now, in the past exams were only sat in e.g. June and December and so one had to sit 2 or 3 exams over the exam week. For ACA exams, the final level required 5 exams over the space of 2 ½ days! It is therefore a matter of them getting used to a slightly different way of studying. At the end of the day, we all want the knowledge learned to be retained, post exam, so it is not a bad thing!

Once the lockdown is over, the AAT will re-start exams and will hopefully reschedule the April/May synoptic exams window. We will liaise with apprentices closely to plan their “catch up” exam and revision timetable. In the meantime, they have tons of question practice that they can do and tons of progress tests to submit for marking and feedback, plus the AAT’s on-line practice exams.

And finally…

If you have any questions on the above or would like to discuss how we can help you over this difficult period do, do please contact me on or on our normal phone line, 01392 435349. The phone support should work as normal…apart from the possibility of that ‘miaow’ in the background!)

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