Understanding The ESFA Rules To Help Avoid Clawback Penalties

2 min read
May 20, 2024 12:00:00 PM

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is responsible for funding education and skills providers in England. An executive agency of the Department for Education, the ESFA makes sure that apprenticeships are properly funded and checks that courses are ‘fit for purpose’. This helps to guarantee that apprentices get the training they really need and that the government is getting value for money.

However, in order to receive funding from the ESFA, employers must adhere to the agency's guidelines. Employers, training providers and performance management must all stick to these rules to get funding for training and apprenticeships. If training doesn’t meet the standards set by the ESFA, clawback penalties can be imposed to help recoup the cost of the training. By familiarising yourself with the ESFA's guidelines and ensuring you’re maintaining compliance, you can access the necessary funding to support your apprenticeship program while providing high-quality training that benefits both your organisation and your apprentices.

Apprentice Wage 

According to ESFA apprenticeship funding rules 23/24, all apprentices must be paid a lawful wage. If apprentices aren’t given a lawful wage, their employer will not receive apprenticeship funding. The current National Minimum Wage for an apprentice in their first year is £6.40 per hour. Those who are aged 19 or over and have completed their first year are entitled to the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage rate for their age. 


Some apprentices will learn more quickly than others. As long as they’ve met the minimum 12-month duration period and minimum off-the-job hours for the training, they can complete their programme before their planned learning end date. So, if you have an apprentice who’s worked hard to complete their hours and learn their craft, they can take the next step on their career path as long as they’ve met these standards. 


ESFA apprenticeship standards state that revisions, examinations and other tests must not be included in the off-the-job (OTJ) training. All off-the-job training must be agreed upon beforehand and some active learning (i.e. off-the-job training or English or maths training) must take place in every calendar month of the practical period. 

Training Plan 

As per the ESFA apprenticeship agreement for employers, the training plan for an apprentice must be agreed upon before any training is delivered. An assessment needs to be carried out to ascertain the apprentice’s prior knowledge and skill level, and this must be taken into account to ensure there’s no repeat learning.

The plan must include the total amount of hours to be delivered. This should be adjusted to reflect any prior knowledge the apprentice may have. 

Contact Our Team

Double-checking ESFA rules, and following these rules to the letter, will help to prevent any clawback penalties and ensure the apprenticeship runs smoothly. To learn more about apprenticeships and how they work, contact us and speak to a friendly member of our team today.

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