Skills for Londoners

Employment and Skills COVID-19 Guidance and Frequently Asked Questions

Support for education and training providers

This page was last updated on 28 May 2020 and will be updated as necessary.

This page contains guidance for GLA-funded employment and skills providers.  And frequently asked questions on the GLA's response to the impact of COVID-19 and the introduction of essential public health measures on the delivery and funding of GLA-funded provision.  

Jules Pipe CBE, the Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, wrote to grant and procured Adult Education Budget (AEB) and European Social Fund (ESF) providers on 31 March to provide reassurances and an update on the latest guidance. 

The above letters followed earlier correspondence issued on 20 March.

The Department for Education (DfE) has also published guidance for maintaining further education provision and the apprenticeship programme. Gillian Keegan MP, the Apprenticeships and Skills Minister has also written to colleges, independent training providers and non-college stakeholders in England.

In April the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan wrote to higher education providers to thank them for their response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to outline some of the support the GLA is providing.

Frequently asked questions

Please find below answers to frequently asked questions about:

  • changes to learning and learning support
  • payment, evidence and eligibility and
  • delivery flexibilities and support for providers

For any queries that are not captured by current FAQs please contact your provider manager.

Changes to Learning and Learning Support

This section was last updated on 21 May 2020

Should training providers be closing and ceasing all delivery?

Colleges and other providers have been advised by DfE to stop classroom delivery of education and training from Monday, 23 March for the majority of learners of all ages.  Providers are not, however, being asked to close their doors completely and stop all delivery.

Exceptions to stopping classroom delivery apply to:

  • dependents of critical workers
  • vulnerable young people

For all other learners, provision should continue remotely online or via distance learning where possible.  Where provision cannot be delivered through online or distance learning the government's guidance should be followed.

Can providers shift to online delivery for provision funded by the GLA if this was not part of their original application for funding?

Providers are encouraged to deliver provision online or via distance learning where this is possible.

Can a Skills for Londoners Innovation Fund project be switched from classroom to online delivery?

Providers are encouraged to deliver provision online where this is possible.

Is there any support available to enable a shift to online delivery as quickly as possible?

Providers delivery accredited learning aims should contact the relevant Awarding Organisation for advice about online and distance learning materials, as well as updated guidance regarding assessment and examination in the context of the current classroom closures.

The GLA is also exploring support for providers to move provision online.

Can AEB learners be put on a Break in Learning where not all of the course can be delivered online?

Where a provider and a learner have agreed that they are unable to continue to study because of classroom closure then this may be recorded as a break in learning.  Please note that the learning aims associated with the programme studied will not generate funding whilst a break in learning is recorded. Breaks in learning should be recorded on the Individualised Learner Record (ILR) in the normal way.

Government information about exams focuses primarily on GCSE and A level qualifications. What are the arrangements for other qualifications that are exam-based?

No exams will be taking place in colleges this summer, including for vocational and technical qualifications. Ofqual is working with the sector to explore assessment options and will provide details shortly.  For exam information, please follow the links to the DfE guidance.

How should learners be registered for exams during the period of COVID-19 closures and how should providers ensure that learners receive the appropriate assessment and certification?

Providers should consult with the relevant Awarding Organisation for the learning aims studied by learners to receive guidance about assessment and certification. This guidance will enable providers to determine the arrangements for completing and achieving learners in line with their chosen learning aim(s).

Is there flexibility for AEB Providers to use Learner Support funds differently to support learners in current circumstances? 

As explained in the GLA AEB Funding Rules, AEB providers may use Learner Support Funds to provide financial support for learners with a specific financial hardship preventing them from taking part or continuing in learning.  Flexibility is possible within the application of these rules to fund needs beyond childcare or travel, as described in section 217.6 of the rules for grant-funded providers, or 223.6 for AEB procured providers. This may include support required to access remote provision such as course-related books or a suitable device. Where a device is purchased from Learner Support funds to support access by an individual, this equipment should be retained by the provider at the completion of the course in order to support future learning.   

How will achievement and retention rates be recorded to reflect challenges resulting from the current pandemic?

The achievement and retention of learners should be reported through the Individualised Learner Record (ILR) in line with guidance issued by the ESFA and GLA. Providers should ensure that any updates in respect of ILR data collection linked to COVID-19 disruption are followed.

Payment, Evidence and Eligibility

This section was last updated on 21 May 2020

(We recommend that you review the FAQs in full as additions were made to earlier questions)

Will providers be paid if classroom-based provision is closed or cancelled?

AEB Procured providers will continue to be paid for actual delivery where learners are continuing in study. Payments will be processed via GLA Ops in the usual way.  In addition, where required the GLA will make advance payments to uplift funding to the average monthly earnings during the period of closure (based on delivery in periods R05, R06 and R07).

AEB Grant-funded providers will continue to receive payments on profile. This also applies to the Skills for Londoners Innovation Fund. Payments will be processed via GLA Ops in the usual way.

ESF providers will continue to be paid their advances on signing their contract or grant agreements and for actual outputs and outcomes delivered.  Payments will be made in the normal way through GLA Ops for ESF 2019-23 projects and through claims submitted to GLA Provider Managers for other ESF projects.  Additional advances may also be claimed either as a lump sum payment or an uplift based on average earnings over the previous two quarters.  In addition, providers may request to change from quarterly to monthly payments where necessary.

Performance reconciliation for grant-funded providers for 2019/20 will be based on the full-year forecast in the Mid-Year Claim, except in cases where performance was significantly lower than expected. All providers must continue to deliver online or by distance learning where possible including via subcontracting plans approved by the GLA to support new and existing London residents who are learners so that they are able to complete their courses/qualifications or retain evidence where this is not possible. This includes skills provision to support furloughed workers and critical key worker staff.

The GLA reserves the right to recover funds where it can be demonstrated that a grant-funded provider has not sought to continue delivery wherever possible online or otherwise, either directly or through subcontracting plans. Where a grant-funded provider relies on planned subcontracting, the provider must retain evidence of the funding paid to the subcontractor in support of their funding claim.

Further information on the additional measures to support providers can be found in the letters sent to providers from Deputy Mayor Jules Pipe CBE on 31 March 2020.  You can find these at the top of the page.

Organisations involved in the delivery of any other GLA-funded skills and employment programme, such as the Mayor's Construction Academy, Apprenticeships for Londoners project or the Digital Talent Programme should contact their Provider/ Project Manager.

Can the ESF project advance payment be claimed as usual?

Advance payments which are payable on contract signing for ESF projects can be claimed in the normal way.  

What are the arrangements for AEB procured top up payments and how are these payments reconciled?

AEB Procured contracts are not paid on profile. Where an AEB procured provider’s claim value has fallen below the average of the claim values for the previous three months as a result of the impact of COVID-19 they may request a ‘top-up’ Support Funding advance payment. The value of advance payments made will be reviewed as part of the end-year reconciliation process in December 2020, at which point the GLA expects to take the impact of COVID-19 classroom delivery closure into consideration. The contract variation, which must be signed by providers before a Support Funding payment can be made, provides further details of the reconciliation process that will be applied. Providers will need to make decisions about staffing in the context of their specific organisational circumstances.

Because of the shift to e-learning, short course programmes will take longer than usual and most learners’ end dates will fall into the new academic year. Can learners be funded across academic years?

In accordance with the normal AEB rules, where a learner’s programme of learning falls across more than one academic year they should be recorded as a continuing learner in the 2020-21 academic year.       

Is there any impact on reporting requirements, such as flexibility on the deadline for ILR returns? 

The Individualised Learner Record (ILR) data returns are set to a national timetable. At this stage there is no indication that the Education & Skills Funding Agency expects to issue a revised timetable for returns.

Should providers not be in a position to submit ILR data returns to the normal deadlines due to remote working they should inform their Provider Manager. It may be possible for us to give some flexibility on end-year returns but not final claims.

Are furloughed workers considered to be employed or unemployed?

Furloughed staff are employed but not undertaking work for their employer.

How can furloughed Londoners’ learning be supported through the AEB?

Furloughed Londoners will be fully funded if upon the learning start, they present their employer’s confirmation for being furloughed for a period of time, and as a result their annual salary falls below the London Living Wage threshold quoted in the AEB Funding Rules.

Do the low wage funding criteria apply to furloughed workers?

Low wage criteria apply to all employed individuals in line with GLA AEB Funding and Performance Management rules 2019/20.

How should delivery of results and outcomes be evidenced during COVID-19 restrictions?

AEB Grant providers should continue to evidence delivery in accordance with the Funding Rules, clause 127 of which states that “We accept electronic evidence, including digital signatures, but you must have wider systems and processes in place to assure you that learners exist and are eligible for funding."

AEB Procured and ESF providers should refer to the guidance on electronic evidence for further information.

Where providers can deliver activity against an AEB Procured contract, is there any flexibility in the target groups? For example, can providers deliver more/less in different geographical areas or deliver more/less of the number of required qualification groups? 

In line with existing contractual requirements, providers may submit a variation request to make changes to their proposed target groups or outcomes, but such variation requests will need to be considered in line with public procurement regulations.

Will recent increases in Universal Credit and Job Seekers Allowance payments impact learners being eligible to undertake AEB-funded programmes?

No. The AEB Rules for Procured provision specify when a learner is defined as ‘Unemployed’, but this relates to the level of earned income from employment (disregarding benefits).

Delivery Flexibilities and Support for Providers

This section was last updated on 21 May 2020

Are there additional arrangements to support providers and subcontractors? Are colleges and voluntary organisations eligible for government support such as the Job Retention Scheme? 

Providers should contact HMRC directly to confirm how the published guidance outlining a range of support for businesses may be available to support them through closure.

Further information on additional measures to support providers can be found in the letters sent to providers from the Deputy Mayor Jules Pipe CBE on 31 March 2020, located at the top of this page.

Will the GLA consider allowing providers to deliver a proportion of 2019/20 provision in 2020/2021? What are the arrangements for end of year reconciliation and tolerances? 

AEB Grant-funded provision will continue to be recognised through the ILR in the year that it is delivered. This includes provision funded through the Skills for Londoners Innovation Fund.

AEB Procured and ESF provision is funded through multi-year contracts and grant agreements and so these providers will be permitted to carry forward underperformance in 2019/20 which is related to the COVID-19 closure to future funding years.

The GLA expects that performance management will consider the impact of classroom closures due to COVID-19.

Can the start date for delivery of ESF projects be delayed because of classroom closures due to COVID-19? 

The start date for ESF 2019-23 contracts that have not yet started delivery may be deferred noting that the completion date cannot be extended beyond the current programme delivery end date of 30 June 2023.

The start date for other GLA-funded skills and employment programme projects such as the Mayor's Construction Academy Hubs that are not yet in delivery may also be deferred.

Please contact your provider/ project manager to discuss your proposals and the process for approving a revised start date for delivery. 

With regards to Skills Innovation Fund projects, is it possible to extend the end date of delivery past July 2021?

We are encouraging providers to continue to deliver the Innovation Fund in 2019/20 and 2020/21. Where the start date is from September 2020, we would encourage delivery within the 2020/21 teaching year. Please discuss with your Provider Manager where further information is required.

Can delivery organisations stick to the start date for ESF projects and still receive first milestone payments if early KPIs are missed due to COVID-19 impacts? Will it be possible to reprofile KPIs for the duration of the project?

ESF providers that have not yet started delivery may defer their delivery start date (please see the response above) and may still claim their advance payment on contract signing (please see response above to the question 'Can the ESF advance payment be claimed as usual?')

Because ESF projects are multi-year projects,  where there is any underperformance in 2019/20 and 2020/21 as a direct result of the impact of COVID-19, KPIs and the associated budget may be carried forward and reprofiled into future years (please see above for response to the question 'Will the GLA consider allowing providers to deliver a proportion of 2019/20 provision in 2020/2021?). Project extensions may be agreed to enable carry-forward where relevant, but please note that the ESF programmes have a fixed end date due to the UK's departure from the EU and therefore delivery cannot continue beyond 30 June 2023.

Regarding the opportunity to re-profile ESF delivery, as mentioned in the letter dated 31 March, to providers from Jules Pipe CBE: Is there a timescale or deadline for this and is there any flexibility to carry forward delivery to future years?

Further guidance as to the timescale for reprofiling activity will be provided in due course. For projects which have started delivery, carry forward for underperformance caused by COVID-19 closures to future years will be permitted.

Is it possible to exceed the Flexible Allocation within the AEB Procured contract, where there may be a high demand for courses for learners who do not meet the ESF Lot requirements?

The 15% Flexible Allocation applies to the total four-year contract value. It is not possible to increase the proportion of your delivery that can be attributed to your Flexible Allocation to more than 15%.

Have any communications or guidelines been published by the European Social Fund Managing Authority regarding the GLA contract and COVID-19 impacts?

The ESF Managing Authority for England has published questions and answers relating to ESF and the coronavirus outbreak on the website.

What will the impact be on the Mayor's Construction Academy? Can round 1 Hubs be extended if funds permit, and will there be continued funding of job roles? 

The GLA expects to continue to make payments to Mayor's Construction Academy Hubs in accordance with the funding agreement.  A reconciliation process will take account of the impact of COVID-19 on delivery.  Delivery organisations should contact their GLA project manager to discuss any request to extend the funding agreement, in more detail.  

As provision is moved online, there is concern that this will attract a higher number of learners from outside London. Will there be a relaxation of boundaries for GLA funding?

Providers should continue to deliver in accordance with the GLA Funding Rules for each programme. Providers will need to continue to make clear to potential learners that GLA funded provision is only available to learners with a London postcode.

What is the current thinking for next academic year?

The GLA will keep measures for the next academic year under review according to the latest information from HM Government about restrictions on activity. Further guidance will be issued as available.

Will the next round of ESF go ahead as planned?

The next round will go ahead with more time allowed for the development and submission of proposals. The launch is expected in late April.

How is the GLA handling Skills for Londoners Capital Fund (SfLCF) projects impacted by COVID-19?

We are actively engaging with our delivery partners to understand the impact of COVID-19 on their capital projects. Projects funded as part of the Further Education Capital Fund and Skills for Londoners Capital Fund have been notified that the GLA is exploring flexibility in the claims and payment process where possible to support projects. Project delivery organisations are asked to contact their GLA Capital Project Lead in the LEAP Delivery Team to discuss the issues their project is facing. Further information on measures of support for projects will be communicated directly to project delivery organisations.

What scope is there for flexibility if SfLCF delivery is impacted, for example by planning delays?

Please see response to preceding question.

What happens where SfLCF grant agreements haven’t yet been finalised?

Finalising grant agreements remains a priority. Please contact your GLA Capital Project Lead in the LEAP Delivery Team for guidance. Where COVID-19 is impacting your organisation’s ability to deliver the project, please speak with your Capital Project Lead about any concerns you may have.

Will there still be SfLCF Round 3?

The GLA and the LEAP are currently reviewing this and more information will be communicated in due course.

What support is available for Small Projects and Equipment Fund projects?

Those projects funded under Round 1 are able to claim the remaining GLA funding immediately and in advance of the next claim deadline. Evidence of contracts, equipment orders and/or SROs are required to underwrite any funding not spent at project close which will be reconciled.

If you have recently been awarded funding under Round 2 please contact your lead GLA officer in the LEAP Delivery Team to discuss any flexibility available.

Is it possible to carry forward Skills for Londoners Innovation Funding from 2019/20 for delivery in 2020/21?

The Innovation Fund was allocated to deliver an approved project in 2019/20 and 2020/21. Providers should continue to seek to deliver the project in line with the approved activity and outcomes.

The GLA will consider the impact of COVID-19 disruption to project delivery as part of the reconciliation of first year delivery in December 2020. Where it was not possible to continue delivery owing to the current disruption, providers may carry project delivery into 2020/21. Where this is the case, the unspent project funding in 2019/20 will be reconciled and carried forward into the 2020/21 allocation. Please notify your Provider Manager where you expect that these circumstances may apply.

Can providers furlough any of the project staff working on AEB Procured contracts?

Providers should refer to guidance provided by HMRC for the Job Retention Scheme to assess their eligibility to claim support under this fund. The DfE published guidance relevant to this on April 17.

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