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

These FAQs were last updated on 01/07/2020.

Support measures

What is SDS doing to support providers?

SDS continues to work closely with awarding bodies, partners and Scottish Government to quickly respond to issues arising from the pandemic to support providers, apprentices, young people and employers. 

We have written to providers to express our commitment to supporting and protecting training provision in Scotland. We will be contacting apprentices directly to provide reassurance about completing their training. 

Should providers continue to deliver training at this time?

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

Where can I find information about available online learning?

SDS has introduced an Online Learning Portal in response to COVID-19, connecting people with thousands of free-to-access online learning materials. Working closely with learning providers, additional resources will be added in the coming weeks and months.

SDS has also been in communication with College Development Network which has offered to open its CPD support to providers for free until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CDN LearnOnline resources can be accessed by registering on the site.

There are a number of courses and resources relating to learning and teaching practice, wellbeing (including mental wellbeing) and leadership.

The Federation for Industry Sector Skills & Standards (FISSS) has also launched a COVID-19 Apprenticeship Portal. 

Initially, this will be used to complete an open-ended survey of all training providers who are registered as using the FISSS online certification systems, and of all SSC/SSB members.  

Responses will be used to identify and share innovative ways to keep training and assessment going, wherever possible, during the current lockdown period by using technology and other remote solutions.  Examples of innovation and best practice will be shared via a new free to access portal on the FISSS website.

As a business, what kind of support is available to me and my staff?

The SDS website has information about business support through the impacts of COVID-19. Information with links includes managing business, supporting staff and access to funding. Go to business support.

For information on how you can support your employee's physical and mental well-being during this time, please see Supporting your staff through Covid-19.

I have apprentices who are feeling anxious or stressed, 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, addiction or domestic abuse. 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.

Evidence Guidance

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

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

It is especially important to register any apprentices who have been made redundant, as this information is passed to the PACE team who will then contact the individual with advisory support.

This will also enable SDS to track labour and training market conditions and inform Scottish Government and other stakeholders.

How can MA documentation be completed if a face-to-face meeting with the employer or individual is not possible?

Please visit our dedicated SDS COVID-19 Response for MA Training Providers webpage for full details on the options that are available to you and for specific guidance on capturing signatures.

Are you able to provide guidance on how Participant Quarterly Progress Reviews will be completed?

The interim measures on the SDS COVID-19 Response for Training Providers webpage have been expanded and can now be applied for the completion of Participant Quarterly Progress Reviews and for Apprentice Progress Reviews for QPR Payment Plans (new 20/21 name).

If Providers, Apprentices or Employers are unable to undertake Quarterly Progress Revies (QPRs) in line with the Modern Apprenticeship Specification 20/21 they can suspend activity without penalty. 

The Employer, Apprentice and Provider signatures are mandatory for QPRs and must be obtained prior to making a claim. 

However, due to COVID-19 the Employer signature can be obtained outwith the published timescales.

However, due to COVID-19 the Employer signature (and only the employer signature) can be obtained out with the published timescales.

The MA can be suspended without penalty due to COVID-19. When the MA is restarted the Provider should undertake the next Review (i.e. the first Review that couldn’t be carried out), scheduling all subsequent Reviews 13-weekly from that date.

These subsequent reviews would require to be carried out within the 6-week window i.e. 3 weeks either side of the new quarter-end dates. Claims can then be submitted once all required evidence has been obtained.

Providers are not required to obtain written approval in advance to undertake the first QPRs outwith the original payment plan dates due to COVID-19, however the reason for the suspension of the MA and the period of that suspension should be captured on the QPR.

Providers are required to update the Expected Achievement Dates and End Date on FIPS. More information along with an example is available on the QPR section of the SDS COVID-19 Response for Training Providers.

Are you able to provide guidance on how MA Outcome Payments should be evidenced? 

The Federation for Industry Sector Skills & Standards (FISSS) provided guidance to training providers on 26/3 regarding interim measures in place from w/c 30 March to ensure that they are still able to submit a claim for their Apprenticeship certificate on behalf of apprentices and receive confirmation that completion has been successfully approved.  

For more information, please visit our dedicated SDS COVID-19 Response for MA Training Providers webpage.

You can also contact the Federation for Industry Sector Skills and Standards via maonline@fisss.org or by calling 0300 303 4444.  

Are you able to provide guidance on Self-Assessment / Quality Action Plan submissions?

While we would like you to complete a Self-Assessment / Quality Action Plan we understand that for some of our providers this will be extremely difficult given the current circumstances.

We realise you will have to prioritise your business activity and you should contact the QA mailbox (SDSQualityAssurance@sds.co.uk) with any request to delay your submission.

The Quality Assurance team are working from home and have the systems and technology in place to allow them to engage and communicate internally as a team and externally with our customers should you wish to talk to them.

Are there arrangements for amending current documentation (including ESF) if we are unable to meet face to face for signatures?

Updated guidance on ESF evidence requirements is published and regularly updated on the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 advice and guidance area for European Structural and Investment Funds.

If you are unable to obtain a signature that matches the signature on the Training Agreement then ESF requires you to attempt to gain a signature once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

SDS will inform all Providers when restrictions are lifted.

For ESF queries please contact mas@sds.co.uk.

I’m unable to meet the published Modern Apprenticeship KPLs due to COVID-19, what should I do?

We appreciate that the business effects of COVID-19 will mean that the KPLs for 2020/21 contracts are unlikely to be met. We will review the situation over the forthcoming months and will issue further guidance.  

Delivery Guidance

Can apprentices continue their apprenticeship training whilst furloughed?

Yes, the latest guidance from HMRC confirms apprentices can be furloughed in the same way as other employees, and can continue to train whilst furloughed. Please ensure you visit the HMRC website to view the advice and guidance relating to pay.

We are able to continue to deliver training virtually but what do we do about employers pausing their apprenticeships?

We recognise that many employers may be currently unable to continue their support of apprenticeship delivery as before.

Further information and guidance is available on the dedicated COVID-19 response webpage.

What happens in instances where apprentices are unable to participate in virtual learning (e.g. by skype)?

In line with the assessment strategy, these apprentices will be able to resume their learning once they are back in the workplace.

Who should we notify of any changes to our service delivery due to the Coronavirus pandemic? 

Please notify your Skills Investment Adviser of any further changes to your service.

Modern Apprentice Starts

Can staff who are on furlough be a new start on a Modern Apprenticeship?

Yes, from 8 June, providers can sign up new MA starts from staff which are furloughed. Providers must ensure that all of the eligibility criteria  and the requirements for MA documentation  as detailed in the MA Specification 2020/21 are met by the Apprentice, Employer and Provider.

It is mandatory for the Apprentice, Employer and Provider to complete the MA Training Agreement prior to inputting a new start on FIPS.

Awarding Body and Accreditation Guidance

Where can I keep up to date with information and support from the regulatory and awarding bodies?

SQA Accreditation is the regulatory body for SVQs in Scotland. It has identified what quality principles have to be followed by Awarding Bodies that offer SVQs and other qualifications. Visit the SQA Accreditation website for more information.

City and Guilds Awarding Body has put in place a full section relating to COVID-19 with free enhanced distance learning packages that anybody can register and request (even if you are not a C&G centre).

SQA Awarding Body is updating its website regularly on Coronavirus. SQA has a site “U-share” where there may be available signposted resources to support your delivery.

SDS COVID-19 Relief Grant

Can I apply if my business is gaining other financial COVID-19 relief including furlough?

Yes, however, the Scottish Government policy intention is that this relief measure should add value to existing UK or Scottish Government COVID-19 relief funding. Providers must make a self-declaration stating that the SDS relief funding is not being used for the same underlying costs covered by other Covid-19 relief measures.

Can I apply for relief to cover April, May and June after the 30 June deadline given for the initial offer?

No, the extension period enables eligible contracted providers to apply for relief for the months of July and August only.

Can I claim for April, May, June, July and August?

Those providers who meet the grant conditions for each month will be eligible. The application period to support the months of April, May and June 2020 has now closed.

Payments will commence following a review and approval of the application. The control sheet for June can be accessed on the provider area of apprenticeships.scot.

Applications for support covering the months of July and August 2020 can be made from 1 July until noon on 27 August 2020.

How can providers demonstrate they are working with 60%+ of individuals or employers to be eligible to apply?

The simple to use template application form provided should enable providers to demonstrate that they are eligible.

When will I hear if an application has been successful?

SDS will endeavour to review applications as quickly as possible.

How do I get support for my application?

An updated Instruction document, Application Form, Terms and Conditions and Control Sheets for July and August are available on the provider area of apprenticeships.scot. Any questions should be submitted to NTPContracts@sds.co.uk.

Why do I need to provide my company’s financial information?

The funding has been made available through the Temporary Framework for State Aid Measures to Support the Economy in the Current Covid-19 Outbreak and so has to adhere to the financial information requirements needed for all State Aid funding applications.

Why is the scheme not available to all MA and EF learning and training providers?

The Scottish Government’s policy intention is to support those providers who are continuing to deliver contracted services to learners, apprentices and employers during the pandemic.

It has been created to add value to existing UK and Scottish Government support and those providers who are not eligible are encouraged to consider the other forms of support available.

Why are existing payments discounted from the capped amount?

In the case of MAs, due to the payment plan requirements allied to the framework demands, as well as the effects of the pandemic, some providers are continuing to deliver contracted services but unable to claim milestone payments. The relief offers a means of supporting providers in such a situation.

What effect does this have on my contract?

The payments will be deducted from your overall contract value.

If I have applied for the Relief Grant in April, May or June, what information do I need to supply if I am applying for July or August Relief Grant?

If you have made an application for the April - June Relief Grant, you must complete an Application Form (Part 2 Grant Need and Activity Sheet) with projected costs for July and August only (Rows 14 to 24). If any other information in your April to June application has changed, then you should update those sections as well, e.g. if you have applied for any other Covid-19 relief funds. After the end of each Active Financial Period, a Control Sheet with activity not recorded on FIPS should be returned no later than 15 days after Active Financial Period End.

Should Apprentices/Participants that a BAU claim has been submitted for, during the month the claim relates to, be included on the Activity Control Sheet?

No, you do not need to include any Apprentices/Participants that you have already made a business as usual claim FIPS claim for in the same month you are claiming for.

Should Apprentices or Trainees who left the programme, prior to the month being claimed for, be included on the Activity Control Sheet?

No, the Activity Control Sheet should not include Apprentices/Participants who have left the programme prior to the month you are claiming for.

Should the Activity Control Sheet be submitted prior to the month end being claimed for?

No, all activity for the month should be submitted at the end of the period being claimed for.

Should the Activity Control Sheet be password protected when it is emailed to MAContracts or EFContracts?

Yes, the 20/21 password issued by SDS should be used to protect the sheet before emailing.

Do I need to password protect the Activity Control Sheet when it is uploaded to the FIPS Expense Claim?

No.

What format should I submit the National Insurance numbers on the Activity Control Sheet?

National Insurance numbers should be submitted without a space or dash between the digits. E.g. AB201030B

Does the NI Number input on FIPS need to match the NI Number on the Activity Control Sheet?

Yes, the NI Number input on FIPS must match the Activity Control Sheet. If the participant has previously used a temporary NI Number, you must ensure this is updated on FIPS and the Activity Control Sheet.

Can I amend the layout of the Activity Control Sheet before submitting and uploading?

No, you must not amend the Activity Control Sheet in any way. If there are changes made to the layout of the Activity Control Sheet, SDS will not accept this.

Further queries

I have some questions that are not currently answered by these FAQs – who can support me?

If you have any questions or issues not addressed by the guidance on this page, please contact your SIA in the first instance. Otherwise please email NTPContracts@sds.co.uk.