Supported Internships, Supported Apprenticeships and the SEN reforms

Supported Internships, Supported Apprenticeships and the SEN reforms

The Children and Families Bill extends the SEN system from birth to 25, giving children, young people and their parents greater control and choice in decisions and ensuring needs are properly met. It takes forward the reform programme set out in Support and Aspiration: A new approach to special educational needs and disability - Progress and next steps by:

  • replacing old statements with new birth-to-25yr education, health and care plans (EHCPs);
  • offering families personal budgets; and
  • improving cooperation between all the services that support children and their families, particularly requiring local authorities and health authorities to work together.

A new Code of Practice has been published following consultation. This is going to be reviewed again in light of the SEND Green Paper.

BASE works closely with the Department for Education on policy and guidance around study programmes, supported internships and apprenticeships. We are also members of the National SEND Employment Forum (NSEF), the inclusive apprenticeship provider hub, the Access to Work Supported Internship Forum, and the Youth Employment Group (YEG).



We have been working with DfE on revised guidance for Supported Internship providers and submitting evidence to the forthcoming DfE SEND review. The new guidance for providers can be found at

We're also part of the Whole School SEND consortium, led by nasen, that has been awarded the new 0-25 years SEND support programme.

We will be consulting with members before responding to the 2022 SEND Review.


Supported Internships

Supported Internships are an education study programme for young people with learning disabilities aged 16 to 24 with an Education Health & Care Plan (EHCP) or a Learning Difficulty Assessment (or their equivalents in Wales and Scotland) who want to move into employment and need extra support to do so. Put simply, they are an exit route from education into paid employment.

BASE can offer a full package of support to organisations looking to establish or develop Supported Internships provision. Contact us for details.

Here's Kathy Melling talking about supported internships. You can find a range of videos on the Preparing for Adulthood Youtube channel.

Supported Internships began around 2009 when a number of sites were funded by the Labour Government at the time to adopt the Project Search model. The last round of internships pilots were officially announced in 2013 but pilot work had begun previously. Internships can now be offered by any further education college or school. The Government published an evaluation of supported internship pilots in December 2013.

Supported Internships are work-based learning placements within mainstream employment settings. The aim is to secure a job at the end of the placement. Placements should last over 6 months and normally would be at least 20 hours per week. Generally, they involve three rotations i.e. the learner would try out three work roles within the company. The college provides group learning around the placement, often at the start and end of the day, but sometimes through day release. Many colleges contract with supported employment agencies to provide the job coaching element of the course, though some are doing this themselves. Employers also play a key role in the internships. The key is to develop a strong partnership between employer, college, supported employment provider and the local authority. Any of these partners can lead the partnership.

Jobcoaching support can now be funded through Access to Work and further information is available on our Knowledge page.

Supported Internships are funded through the education system using Element 1 (core funding) and Element 2 (additional learning support) funding. Local authorities can contribute through the use of Element 3 (exceptional additional learning support) funds. Further Education funding has changed substantially in 2013-14 and it no longer funds qualifications but instead funds study programmes. This means that study programmes can be tailored according to the needs of individual learners. In 2014, the DfE published guidance on welfare benefit entitlement for students undertaking Supported Internships.

In 2020, DfE commissioned Cooper Gibson to produce a research report into how Supported Internships are delivered. In February 2022, the Department for Education published updated guidance on Supported Internships.

The Preparing for Adulthood website has some excellent resources on Supported Internships including guidance for young people and families on routes into work. We also have Supported Internship resources on our Knowledge pages and you'll find some videos on our YouTube Channel.



Supported Apprenticeships

The Department for Education has announced changes to Maths and English requirements for apprentices who have special educational needs, learning difficulties or disabilities. Specific criteria have to be met and evidenced and these are detailed in the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England. For these apprentices exemptions are in place for the regular English and Maths minimum requirements. This exemption allows the apprentice to use an Entry Level 3 qualification in English or Maths as an acceptable alternative.

The changes are a result of the Maynard Review, though the early work on this was completed by Peter Little, and a number of pacesetters are testing out the new regime. BASE has a place on the pacesetter advisory group and has supported these changes and helped to identify best practice. A number of issues remain to be resolved including how end-point assessments will be made and ensuring that apprentices have adequate workplace support.  

The Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) has published draft guidelines which makes it a requirement for apprenticeship standards end-point assessments to be capable of being reasonably adjusted in line with equality legislation. It says “check that none of the assessment methods proposed make it impossible to make reasonable adjustments” and “provide EPAOs (End Point Assessment Organisations) with high-level guidance on making reasonable adjustments”. A resonable adjustment matrix is attached below.

The 6th version of the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE), published in 2017, introduced a number of key changes to the range of acceptable qualifications for both English and Maths.

The use of a British Sign Language (BSL) qualification (at the required level) is now approved in place of the regular English qualification minimum requirement. This is only for apprentices who use BSL as their primary language.

Guidance on supported apprenticeships and an update on the Maynard review is available on our knowledge pages. An Employer Toolkit was also developed in 2014. A provider support hub has now been established on Linkedin.

Apprenticeship funding rules for main providers - Guidance

Specification of apprenticeship standards for England (SASE)

Find out more about support for apprentices with additional support needs


Exceptions to the English and Maths Regular Minimum Requirements for People with Special Educational Needs, Learning Difficulties or Disabilities

The following is taken from the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (Sections 18-26):

18. Every effort should be made to enable apprentices to achieve the regular minimum English and maths requirements of the specific apprenticeship, including appropriate use of access arrangements, reasonable adjustments and stepping stone qualifications.

19. However, some apprentices with learning difficulties and disabilities may be able to meet the occupational standard but may struggle to achieve the English or maths qualification at the level normally required as a result of the nature of their difficulty or disability. Apprentices in this category who meet all of the conditions specified below are exempt from the regular English and maths minimum requirements and are instead required to achieve an adjusted minimum requirement of Entry Level 3 in the subjects.

20. Depending on the apprentice’s individual circumstances and assessment, the adjustment may apply to one subject in isolation, or to both English and maths. If the adjustment is only applied to one subject, the regular requirements for the non-adjusted subject will apply.

21. Adjusting the minimum requirements to Entry Level 3 in English and maths can be considered by the provider on an individual case-by-case basis where all of the following conditions have been satisfied:

  • The apprentice has either an existing or previously issued Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan, a statement of Special Educational Need (SEN) or a Learning Difficulty Assessment (LDA);

  • The provider holds or has conducted an evidenced assessment demonstrating that even with support, reasonable adjustments and stepping stone qualifications the apprentice is not able to achieve English or maths to the minimum level as a result of their learning difficulty or disability;

  • The employer and provider must reasonably expect that the apprentice will be able to successfully achieve all other aspects of the apprenticeship requirements, become occupationally competent and achieve Entry Level 3 in the adjusted subject(s) before the end of their apprenticeship; and

  • There are no industry specific minimum entry requirements

22. For the purpose of this document, ‘provider’ is defined as the education or training provider.

23. Although the apprentice will be exempt from the regular English and/or maths minimum requirements, providers must consider how to enable the apprentice to access further literacy and numeracy development – including Level 1 and Level 2 courses – as part of their overall training provision, if appropriate.

24. The assessment should be formal, structured, and authorised by an appropriate professional associated with the training or education provider, such as the head of SEN or Student Support. The format of the assessment is to be determined by the provider but must be able to stand up to scrutiny. We expect that it will be conducted within eight weeks of an apprentice beginning their apprenticeship and will include:

  • assessment of the apprentice’s current English and maths levels;

  • collection of information on how the learning difficulty or disability affects the

    apprentice’s English and maths abilities and a clear indication of whether one or both English and maths are affected;

  • assessment of the apprentice’s ability to meet the regular English and maths requirements even with appropriate support in place;

  • the creating of a recommended learning plan to enable the apprentice to achieve Entry Level 3 in the adjusted subject(s) and, where appropriate, to continue to build on their literacy and numeracy skills by accessing further courses; and

  • collection of copies of an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan, a statement of Special Educational Need (SEN) or a Learning Difficulty Assessment (LDA)

25. The Individual Learner Record (ILR) will be used to monitor the application of this adjustment to the regular English and maths requirements. Providers should retain evidence that justifies their decision that a student is eligible for this exemption. This information must be available to auditors appointed to test the use of ESFA funding and to Ofsted inspectors.

26. In the event that the apprentice disagrees with the outcome of the assessment the provider must provide a facility for the apprentice to request a second opinion. The provider must ensure that the assessment is reviewed independently by a second SEN professional. The format of the review process is to be determined by the provider and must be able to stand up to scrutiny.