ESFA funded 16 to 18 traineeships

Information about 16 to 18 traineeships funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency


ESFA fund traineeships for 16 to 18-year-olds (and 19 to 24-year-olds, and up to age 25, with an education, health and care (EHC) plan) through the young people’s funding methodology for 16 to 19 study programmes.

We fund traineeships for 19 to 24-year-olds through the adult education budget (AEB) funding methodology. Further information on how these traineeships are funded is available in the AEB funding rates and formula.

Traineeships are a demand led programme which can benefit young people if they are within 12 months of being able to get sustainable employment or an apprenticeship.

We introduced traineeships in 2013 and further information about the policy, the content of the programme and details on work experience arrangements is available on GOV.UK.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) specific update

We published guidance for training providers delivering traineeships between 23 March 2020 and 31 August 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This guidance was for all training providers who delivered ESFA funded traineeships to young people aged 16 to 24 and up to age 25 for those with an EHC plan, and replaced the existing guidance at that time.

Traineeships from September 2020

We have reformed the traineeship programme to increase flexibility and improve quality. This will support more young people into employment. The traineeship reforms came into effect on 1 September 2020 and we have published an updated Traineeships Framework for delivery which sets out these policy reforms, including:

  • the extended duration
  • the inclusion of digital content
  • closer alignment to occupational standards to further support the transition to apprenticeships

Provider eligibility

There are no unique provider eligibility requirements for traineeships beyond what is set out in the relevant funding rules.


Funding for traineeships

Traineeships funded under the 16 to 19 young people’s funding methodology are funded as study programmes on a per student basis. Further information is available in our funding guidance.

The unique characteristics of a traineeship are:

  • they have a programme aim and specific programme type (24) on the individualised learner record (ILR) or an indicator in the school census
  • they last a minimum of 6 weeks and up to a maximum of 12 months, and should reflect the needs of the student
  • students on them would normally be funded in a part-time band, however in some cases where the student requires more support, they can also be funded as a full-time programme
  • the core aim must be work experience

You can use as much of your study programme allocation as you see fit for delivering traineeships.

In-year growth for academic year 2020 to 2021

Following the Chancellor’s announcement to increase the number of traineeships being delivered in the current academic year, we are introducing a new traineeship in-year growth mechanism for those institutions that currently have a 16 to 18 mainstream contract. The process will be data driven based on ILR and school census returns. Institutions are not required to submit a business case (and neither will one be accepted) to access additional in-year growth funding for traineeships. Institutions are encouraged to increase their delivery of traineeships this year in the knowledge that funding will follow based on their data returns, up to their own individual cap (more details on the cap are below).

The in-year growth process for traineeships will be based on the principles below.

In-year growth principles

Subject to the cap, we will fund growth in traineeships at a 100% rate (i.e. funded in full) with no tolerance; we will even fund one additional traineeship student above the baseline. However, we will only fund traineeship growth if an institution is also over-delivering against its overall 16 to 18 allocation. If an institution is under-delivering against its 16 to 18 allocation, it will not be eligible for traineeship growth funding.

Each institution will have a cap beyond which growth funding cannot be guaranteed. However, for the majority of providers the cap will allow them to at least double the size of their traineeship delivery. If possible, and should budget allow, we will increase the cap during the year to encourage further traineeship delivery or pay for traineeship growth already delivered.

To measure the growth in traineeships, we will set a baseline for each individual provider based on historic traineeship delivery. For the majority of providers, this will be the 2018 to 2019 delivery (the last year of delivery uninterrupted by COVID-19), but for the small number of providers that did increase delivery in 2019 to 2020 then we will use that year’s data.

We will pay growth funding as soon as possible after the following ILR data returns: R04, R06, R10 and R14 (we will pay growth at R06 for grant-funded providers if it is significant, otherwise we will process this later in the year). For schools and academies, we will pay growth after the S02 and S05 data returns. Where growth is paid on an in-year data return that later proves to be inaccurate, we will recover that growth.

For institutions that had traineeship delivery in either 2018 to 2019 or 2019 to 2020, we will issue baselines through document exchange in early October. We may update a small number of institutions’ baseline figures later in the year after the receipt of the 2019 to 2020 R14 ILR data return.

We will initially set the traineeship growth cap at the same level as the baseline. However, for providers with either no or small levels of previous traineeship delivery this will be increased to 20 students for grant-funded providers and £100,000 for independent learning providers (ILPs). For providers with higher levels of previous traineeship delivery the maximum growth cap will be 100 students for grant-funded providers and £500,000 for ILPs. As mentioned previously, we may increase these traineeship caps later in the year dependent on affordability.

We will calculate the in-year growth for ILPs and grant-funded providers differently due to the nature of the contracts. For ILPs it will be a cash based calculation and for grant-funded institutions it will be a student based calculation.

Grant-funded providers

We will base the growth calculation for grant-funded providers on student numbers. We will award funding at the average funding rate per student. We will not amend allocated banding proportions.

We will award growth based on in-year ILR data returns, however this is subject to confirmation of the accuracy of the data at R14.

We will calculate growth by:

  1. Calculating overall over-delivery
  2. Calculating the traineeship over-delivery
  3. Calculating traineeship growth as the lower of the figures at step 1 and step 2, subject to the cap
  4. Identifying, at R04 only, any remaining over-delivery not funded in step 3, to go forward for exceptional in-year growth

We will award growth by amending funding allocations and issuing them as contract variations.


For ILPs we will use the reconciliation mechanism for awarding growth funding. Using the reconciliation process will mean that contract variations will not be required.

We will calculate growth by:

  1. Calculating overall over-delivery (funding generated from that return less allocation)
  2. Calculating traineeship over-delivery (traineeship funding from that return less baseline)
  3. Funding the lower of steps 1 and 2 at 100% subject to the traineeship cap
  4. Funding remaining over-delivery through normal reconciliation rules (subject to the reconciliation tolerance and reconciliation cap, and paid at the relevant marginal rate in-year)

Worked examples

We have produced worked examples (MS Excel Spreadsheet, 22.1KB) for how we will calculate growth; there are separate tabs for grant-funded institutions and ILPs.


If traineeship provision is being subcontracted, institutions should be mindful of the subcontracting controls and additional checks may be undertaken by the ESFA.


Definitions for successful outcomes

Successful outcomes will be within 6 months of leaving/completing a traineeship, the trainee will either:

  • have had 8 consecutive weeks of employment/self-employment of 16 hours a week or more (if 16 or 17 years old with RPA compliant amount of training)
  • have started on an apprenticeship by passing the qualifying period to count in funding terms
  • have started on a further learning course at a level above which they are currently qualified (or a level that demonstrates progression) and have passed the qualifying period to count in funding terms—the further learning should include a substantial qualification recognised in the DfE performance tables (you can access the lists for each of the years from 2015 to 2018 for further details)

Completion of programme, outcomes, funding and quality implications

We use both the programme aim and the core aim to calculate retention for traineeships.

We use the programme aim to determine if the student is on a traineeship programme at some point in the academic year. Please use code programme type 24 if this applies. We also use the programme aim to determine if the programme is complete, transferred or withdrawn. This is important for calculating retention.

The core aim determines if a traineeship programme is the latest programme taken by the student in the year. If the student subsequently enrols on a non-traineeship study programme, it is the subsequent study programme that will be counted for retention purposes.

Completion can be by completing all planned activity for the programme or by leaving early to achieve a successful outcome. The programme aim in the ILR should correctly reflect the completion and achievement status of each student on a traineeship. There are 4 possible scenarios which define retention, funding and outcomes:

  • the trainee completes their programme and progresses to a successful outcome, which is retained in funding terms and positive in quality terms—in this scenario the programme aim should be recorded as completed and achieved
  • the trainee completes their programme but does not progress to a successful outcome, which is retained in funding terms, but negative in quality terms —in this scenario the programme aim should be recorded as completed and not achieved
  • the trainee leaves the programme early and progresses to a successful outcome, which is retained in funding terms and positive in quality terms—in this scenario the programme aim should be recorded as withdrawn and achieved (the student would still be retained because they have a positive destination)
  • the trainee leaves early and does not achieve a successful outcome, which is negative in retention terms and negative in quality terms—in this scenario the programme aim should be recorded as withdrawn and not achieved

English and maths

The condition of funding for English and maths and traineeships

Students on traineeship programmes are subject to the condition of funding in the same way as students on other study programmes.

From the academic year 2020 to 2021, the condition of funding grade 3 or grade D requirement will apply to students on traineeship programmes according to whether the student is full time or part time.

Full-time students with prior attainment of GCSE grade 3 or grade D in English and/or maths must study GCSE to meet the condition. Part-time students can study towards a GCSE or a valid stepping stone qualification irrespective of prior attainment.

Further information is available about the condition of funding for English and maths.

English and maths studied during a traineeship funded under 16 to 19 young people’s methodology

Institutions must be able to demonstrate educational progression for students recruited onto programmes funded by ESFA, and be able to record evidence of good educational reasons for any individual students recruited to programmes which do not provide progression. All such students should only make up a small percentage of the total student cohort.

If a learner does not complete the English and maths elements of the traineeship during their traineeship then these will continue to be funded until they are completed. Detail on how this is handled on the ILR can be found on GOV.UK.

English and maths studied after progressing from a traineeship funded under 16 to 19 young people’s methodology

When a trainee progresses from a traineeship, the next English and maths studied should be at a higher level than they studied on the traineeship.

Delivering traineeships

Delivery expectations

The expectation is that the number of providers and traineeships per provider will grow compared to previous years. There are published figures available on the total number of traineeships.

Delivering a successful traineeship

The primary objective of a traineeship is to progress the trainee to an apprenticeship or other sustainable job. Alternatively, the trainee could enrol on a course of further learning including a full-time study programme where it demonstrates learner progression.

Work experience

The purpose of traineeships is to prepare young people for employment so that they are able to progress successfully to apprenticeships and other sustainable jobs. Work experience in traineeships should give the young person experience of a real workplace so they can develop the skills, knowledge, confidence, attitudes and behaviours they need to succeed at work.

Ideally, work experience should be with an external employer, external to the learning environment and at an external site. However, exceptions to this will be funded. For example, local authorities with a training arm where the direct provision of training is clearly not the local authority’s core business, work experience within departments which are separate to the training arm counts as external work experience.

In these cases, providers will need to make a judgement about whether their work placements genuinely provide students with the experiences they need to develop the work-related attributes expected of a traineeship. Ultimately Ofsted make judgements about the suitability of these arrangements through inspection and grading of providers.

Simulated activity in an artificial environment may well form a helpful part of work preparation training but will not count as work placements for the purposes of traineeships.


ILR requirements for the recording of traineeships

Further information is available on the ILR requirements for traineeships.

For further details please read the traineeships section of the provider support manual.

School census requirements for the recording of traineeships

Information is available on the census requirements for traineeships.

For further details please read the school census.

There is also support available to institutions submitting the school census in the Interactive post-16 census tool.

Queries on 16 to 19 funded traineeships

ESFA enquiries

For all enquiries for the Education and Skills Funding Agency

Version control

This document is Version 4.0 and the content was first published March 2015.

Published 18 March 2015
Last updated 24 September 2020 + show all updates
  1. We have updated our guidance to include a new traineeship in-year growth mechanism for those institutions that have a 16 to 18 mainstream contract for academic year 2020 to 2021

  2. We have updated our advice to reflect: that traineeships may now last up to 12 months; how the English and maths condition of funding applies to students on traineeships.

  3. We have updated information about accessing further 16 to 18 funding to increase the number of traineeships for academic year 2020 to 2021.

  4. We have published new guidance for training providers delivering traineeships. We have added a new section for Coronavirus (COVID-19) to explain this and where to find the guidance

  5. General refresh and updated for 2019 to 2020.

  6. Completion of programme, outcomes, funding and quality implications has been updated.

  7. Updated for 2016 to 2017

  8. Updated information added on provider eligibility

  9. First published.