Foundation Apprenticeship Training Providers can view COVID-19 FAQs below, offering advice, support and relevant contact information.

These FAQs were last updated on 23/10/2020.

Adaptations and Enhancements of Foundation Apprenticeships SCQF Level 6

How are Foundation Apprenticeships changing?

Following extensive discussions with SQA and stakeholders, the following arrangements outlined on the SQA website have been agreed.

The Work-Based Challenge Unit, with associated learner assessment, will be aligned to the NPA/NC element of five frameworks, and will provide a project-based learning experience, designed to support the development of meta-skills. 

These adaptations have been introduced to increase the flexibility for Foundation Apprenticeships to be delivered and to enhance the work- based learning experience, ensuring it is relevant and focused on current and future industry demands.

Will there be new Unit Codes, unit specifications and assessment guidance?

Yes. Information is available on and the SQA website.

The requirements for the assessment of the Customised units is contained in the SDS published document; Approach to Assessment.

FA framework specific assessment information and Customised unit specifications can also be found on the Publications area of  

SQA has devised the assessment for Work Based Challenge Unit and two guidance documents; one for learning providers, lecturers and teachers and the second for learners. The Work Based Challenge Unit must be delivered in the context of the NPA or NC of the associated FA Framework and cannot be completed in isolation. These documents are available to support FA providers and learners and are not publicly available to providers and learners not currently participating in FAs.

How does a learning provider choose the most appropriate units for learners?

The Customised units will be included in most FA frameworks as available units alongside the SVQ/Diploma units from September 2020.  This means centres and candidates can choose which options best suit their workplace circumstances. Candidates can follow a Customised unit or an SVQ/Diploma unit, or a combination.  It is also possible to transfer candidates from an SVQ/Diploma unit to a Customised unit should a work placement cease. Centres must map evidence from one unit to the other to ensure full achievement and to evidence RPL.

A solution for the care frameworks is being developed to create two new framework routes aligned to existing criteria developed to enable achievement of a Foundation Apprenticeship in these areas where access to a work placement may not be available due to the pandemic.

Will there be any change to the overall SCQF credit points/ Insight Tariff points?

While there will be slight changes to the overall SCQF Credit points for some frameworks, there will be no reduction to overall Insight Tariff points.

Work placement is the predominant mode of delivery for work- based learning - how can this be delivered during COVID-19 Restrictions?

Face to -face work placement is a core element of all Level 6 FAs. The new approach allows for more flexibility in the delivery of work-based learning  across a variety of settings including physical workplace, virtual/ on-line working and self -delivery/realistic work environments. Work placement, delivered through a variety of means, is critical for the achievement of an FA.

How do we define different types of delivery of work placements?

Physical Environment – Providing young people with work placement in a real work environment and undertake activities relevant to the learning outcomes. The employer would set the activity for pupil(s) and provide mentoring to the learner as required.

Virtual/On-Line Placement - Virtual/Online Placements provides an opportunity for young people to engage with companies across the country on work placements. This activity will represent the same aspects as a placement undertaken within a physical environment including meetings with your mentor, completing a mix of individual and group projects and learning about the overall company culture and industry it works in. 

Self-Delivery – Learning Providers setting the scene by offering a blend of physical and Virtual/On-Line placements for young people. This will include undertaking work placements in direct relation to the provider/faculties area of business. This activity will represent the same aspects as a placement undertaken within a physical environment including meetings with your mentor, completing a mix of individual and group projects and learning about the overall company culture and industry it works in. 

Please refer to the placement options guidance.

Will the notional hours be reduced?

There will be no change in the number of notional hours of learning. Learners will be required to complete the Foundation Apprenticeship to the same standard, developing a consistent depth of work- based learning. The changes are focused on expanding the ways in which the learning can be delivered, how evidence can be gathered, competency demonstrated or explained, and assessment undertaken.

If a learner is engaging in employer led activity through virtual, remote or on-line learning means, how should this best be managed? E.g. Can learners work in different settings unsupervised?

Schools and learning providers will negotiate how high- quality learning experiences can best be managed in their own local areas. SDS will support discussions to ensure that FA provision meets required quality standards as set out the approach to FA assessment guidance.

What is the approvals process for delivery of the customised units within the adapted FA Frameworks?

For centres currently approved for the FA and related SVQ /Diploma units, SQA will issue a declaration form to centres requesting confirmation of compliance with the conditions of approval for the Customised units.

When the declaration form is received, SQA will apply automatic approval to centres for the Customised units.

If centres only plan to deliver the SVQ/Diploma units and not the customised units, they do not need to complete the declaration form but simply respond to SQA stating this.

Centres should use Assessor and Internal Verifiers for the Customised units with the same competence as the related SVQ / Diploma units.

Centres coming forward for approval to deliver FA frameworks for the first time will go through the full approval process as normal.

What is the verification process for delivery of the customised units within the adapted FA Frameworks?

Selection of the Customised units will be aligned to the corresponding SVQ units.  This will allow for review of both SVQ and Customised units at the same verification activity. Arrangements are the same as those currently in place for FAs.

A solution for the care frameworks is being developed.

What is the approvals process for delivery of the Work Based Challenge Unit within the relevant FA Frameworks?

Candidates starting in September 2020

New FA frameworks have been created for the pilot frameworks and all candidates starting in 2020 should be entered onto these frameworks:

  • Financial Services (GR6F 46)
  • Business Skills (GR50 46)
  • Accountancy (GR6D 46)
  • IT Hardware (GR53 46)
  • IT Software (GR54 46)

The Work-based Challenge Unit J4YL 04 will be included in each of the five frameworks as a mandatory unit and will replace the following units:

  • Financial Services – Work Placement (HF88 46)
  • Business Skills – Work Placement (HF88 46)
  • Accountancy – Work Placement (HF88 46)
  • IT Hardware – Personal Effectiveness 2 (H3C4 04)
  • IT Software – Personal Effectiveness 2 (H3C4 04)

In the Business Skills and Financial Services FA, the NPAs have been recoded as the work placement unit has been removed from the NPA. The new NPA codes are:

  • Business Skills (GR3P 46)
  • Financial Services (GR3Y46)

Candidates that started in 2019

Candidates that started in 2019 will continue on the FA frameworks

  • Accountancy (GN7T 46)
  • Financial Services (GL53 46)
  • Business Skills (GL8J 46)
  • Information Technology: Hardware/ System Support (GL55 46)
  • Information Technology: Software Development (GL54 46)

These frameworks will have a finish date of 31/07/2021.

The Work-based Challenge Unit will be added as an optional unit to the work placement unit to allow those candidates on FAs Accountancy, Business Skills or Financial Services to complete the work-based challenge unit instead where required.

In the Business Skill and Financial Services FA, the work placement unit was part of the NPA therefore, new NPAs have been created to allow the option to complete the work placement unit or Work-based Challenge Unit.

The new NPA codes are:

  • Business Skills (GR3P 46)
  • Financial Services (GR3Y46

The Work-based Challenge Unit has also been added an optional unit to Personal Effectiveness 2 in the IT FAs.

Centre Approval

Centres already approved for these FA frameworks will be automatically approved for the Work-based Challenge Unit in the new FA frameworks.

Centres already approved for the NPAs Business Skills (GL8H 46) and Financial Services (GL6W46) will also be approved for the new NPAs; Business Skills (GR3P 46 and Financial Services (GR3Y46)

How are the Care frameworks being developed?

A solution for the care frameworks is being developed to create two new framework routes aligned to existing criteria developed to enable achievement of a Foundation Apprenticeship in these areas where access to a work placement may not be available due to the pandemic.

What is the verification process for delivery of the Work Based Challenge Unit within the relevant FA Frameworks?

The Work-based Challenge Unit must be delivered in the context of subject of the NPA in the FA framework. Verification of the unit will be picked up along with the NPA for FA candidates.

Can providers share examples of how they are supporting employers in new ways?

We would encourage providers to share their experiences.

SDS will work with providers to support knowledge exchange through the Communities of Practice and sectoral meetings. Employer guides for each framework have been published and will be updated.

Will the progression pathways to college and university be affected with the new approach?

FA as entry requirements to college and university will be unchanged as a result of the new approach. UCAS Tariff points remain the same.

Will these adaptations support learners undertaking a Shorter Duration Delivery Model?


Will there be any changes to funding for delivery in year 2020-21?

No, there will be no funding changes.

Can the final FA award be a mixture of the SVQ and Customised Unit, or do providers have to choose one route?

Yes.  Learners may achieve via the SVQ or Customised routes or any variety therein.

A solution for the care frameworks is being developed.

Can providers start on the SVQ route and then change to the Customised units part way through the programme – and is there a point in time when this can no longer happen?

Yes. There is no end point beyond which this cannot happen.  Critical to this will be the maintenance of evidence portfolios that clearly align associated activity/evidence to the performance criteria.

Are Work Based Challenge Units compulsory for the Business Skills and IT Hardware/Software frameworks?

The Work Based Challenge Units are compulsory for all new starts and optional for returners (either in addition to, or in place of the Work Placement unit where applicable). This applies for all new starts, whether on SDDM or 2 year provision.

Qualification and Progression FAQs

Will Learning Providers be able to draw down full framework funding in relation to the Letter of Recognition being awarded for relevant pupils?


Should I submit results for SVQ or accredited Diploma units?

Candidates who have not completed the SVQ or accredited Diploma units within the Foundation Apprenticeships should not be resulted for these.

How do learners qualify for the ‘Letter of Recognition’?

To qualify for the Letter of Recognition, the following three parameters must be met: 

  • Learner was due to complete the FA in the Academic Year 19/20 
  • Learners who have passed and been resulted on SQA systems for the NPA/NC element of the FA by the 15 July 2020 (including where SQA's 2020 Qualifications guidance has been applied)
  • Learners who have had no ‘Fails’ recorded with SQA against any other units contained in the FA by 15 July 2020.

What is the approach to applying professional judgement for the NPA/NC element of the programme?

Please refer to the guidance issued to you by SQA,  outlining the approach to be taken where learners were on track however, they were unable to complete the NPA/NC. Foundation Apprenticeship learning providers have until 15th July to submit results to SQA.

Where SQA's 2020 Qualifications guidance has been applied and confirms NPA/NC achievement, will the learner receive the Letter of Recognition and the NPA/NC Groups Award certificate?

Yes.  Where professional judgement estimates that the learner would have achieved they will be resulted as having achieved the NPA/NC and therefore gain the respective group award certificate and Letter of Recognition.

What do I need to enter with SQA?

Registration for each category of learners is outlined below:

1. Learners achieving the full FA

  • Enter for FA Group Award code and all composite group awards and units (including HE6E 04 Foundation Apprenticeship Certification unit) by 15 July 2020

2. Learners eligible for the Letter of Recognition

  • Enter for FA Group Award and all composite group award and units (excluding HE6E 04 Foundation Apprenticeship Certification unit) by 15 July 2020

3. Learners that are not eligible for the Letter of Recognition

  • Enter for FA Group Award and all assessed units (excluding HE6E 04 Foundation Apprenticeship Certification unit) by 15 July 2020

When do I need to result with SQA?

All results for all Foundation Apprenticeship learners must be on SQA systems by close of business on 15 July 2020.

What if I have late evidence to update?

The absolute cut- off date for results to be uploaded is the 15 July.  This has been extended from previous years due to the disruption caused by COVID-19 to learning.   Failure to meet this date will impact certification on the 4 August and eligibility for the letter of recognition.

Assessments and results processed after 15 July will be certificated after 4 August but no letter of recognition will be issued.  Eligibility for the letter is based on results on SQA systems by 15 July.

Will the Letter of Recognition be used for returning and new start cohorts?

The Letter of Recognition is to be utilised only for the specific cohort of learners who were due to complete in Academic Year 2019/20 and achieved the NC/NPA group award within the FA framework. 

Foundation Apprenticeship returners and new starts will be certificated as normal for all of their achievements and those who complete all components of the FA will be certified with the  FA Certificate.

Can learners awarded the Letter of Recognition still undertake work at a later date to gain the full FA? 

Yes.  Learners who are in a position  to complete the outstanding learning and assessment for the full FA Award during 2020/21 once the letter of recognition has been issued,  will be supported by SDS and learning providers to complete should they wish to do so.

If learners awarded the Letter of Recognition opt to take time out or a gap year, will the Letter of Recognition still be recognised for progression at a future date? 

Yes.  The Letter of Recognition will retain eligibility for college, university and a related Modern Apprenticeship or Graduate Apprenticeship.

General FAQs

What is SDS doing to support providers?

In response to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) continues to consider and agree measures to reduce disruption to contract holders, employers and apprentices in the delivery of Foundation, Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships, and the Employability and National Third Sector Funds 

We will continue to keep providers updated on changes or additional guidance and measures as this information becomes available

I have learners who are feeling stressed and anxious, how can I support them?

There is a range of information and resources on supporting mental well-being on the My World of Work website at Well-being Support.

Learners may also be experiencing a wide range of personal issues during this time such as bereavement. The BBC Action Line provides information on a wide range of topics so it may be beneficial to promote this to your learners to allow them to access information and support if they need it.

How will physical distancing recommendations affect the ESF evidence requirements for Foundation Apprenticeships?

SDS understands and shares your concerns.  

We have issued guidance which details the COVID-19 changes to evidence requirements. You can access this guidance on our website.

SDS presented a Community of Practice webinar on 30th April 2020 to disseminate the guidance and allow FA learning Providers to discuss and share good practice in approach to gathering evidence.

We are continuing to operate as normally as possible and are able to continue processing claims where evidence is verified.

Though this is a rapidly evolving and unpredictable situation, we are committed to working flexibly with Learning Providers during this difficult period. 

Will we be able to get PVG checks completed for learners where required going forward?

Where a framework currently requires a PVG check for placement we expect this to continue.  Whilst Disclosure Scotland are currently prioritising critical applications that support the coronavirus response, they are preparing for moving out of this phase and expect to process most applications as per normal timelines soon.  Please check their website regularly for more details or contact Disclosure Scotland at

SDS releases Foundation Apprenticeship Milestone Payments to learning providers by framework, is SDS considering releasing milestone payments on a pro-rata basis for each individual where the milestone evidence has been validated and approved?

Yes, SDS is currently reviewing frameworks where evidence is partially complete with a view to releasing milestone payments for evidence which has been validated and approved. This will require some changes to the Milestone Payment Schedule and purchase orders, your Development and Delivery Executive or Contracts & Performance Adviser will be able to support this process. 

Should learning providers continue to deliver training at this time?

We encourage everyone – providers, employers and individuals – to follow Government guidelines on Coronavirus.  

The Scottish Government’s latest information and advice is available online at: Public health advice can be found at: Coronavirus (COVID-19) on NHS Inform 
Providers should also consider how they might adapt their delivery and assessment practice wherever circumstances will allow and in accordance with Awarding Body/assessment strategy guidance.

Should providers continue to enter data/upload information and evidence to FIPS at this time?

Yes, providers must continue to input all FA information to FIPS, keep all documentation required, and ensure these are available to upload to FIPS on request.    

This will enable SDS to validate evidence and generate milestone payments. 

We are able to continue delivering training/lectures virtually, but what about employers pausing their work placements?

We recognise that many employers may be currently unable to continue their support of apprenticeship delivery as before. SDS continues to liaise with Scottish Government colleagues regarding measures to support providers and apprentices during this uncertain time and will continue to provide you with updates.

Can SDS advise on successful existing practice in online delivery of NPA/VQ units and industry challenge project?

We are engaging with learning providers to identify and share good practice being undertaken by learning providers to manage the running and completion of the programme.

We are also planning to use our CoP steering group to agree a methodology of bringing learning providers together to disseminate innovation and good practice such as themed webinars. SDS are also liaising with employer partners who can support  online solutions for learners completing this academic year.