Standard Learning Credits: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sports Coach?
By Melissa Ilic
Education is dull.
Listen in to the first hour of any military education course and you will hear this time and time again, an excuse for why someone hasn’t engaged in their personal development.
But would we continue to file personal development under the ‘could’ tab instead of the ‘must’ tab if it was paid for and we chose the course?
Because there is literally money on the table if you know how to apply for it – and this article will tell you how.
Like playing golf? How about a golf coaching fundamentals course? Snowboarder? How about some money towards your BASI qualification? Some have completed bike maintenance courses (to support their Regimental cycling club), metalworking courses (for vehicle maintenance) and sports or physical training courses (to enhance PT delivery in their unit).
Standard Learning Credits are an annual allowance worth up to £175 in each financial year. They can contribute up to 80% of the cost of a course for your personal development. If you have served for 12-years without using them, you have already poured away £2100.
But first things first: the annual roll-over of Standard Learning Credits happens on the pay run in March. This is normally around the 20th of the month. So as you get into February you only have a few weeks left to claim your annual allowance. After that, it is lost and you use the following year’s allocation. So get on it now.
What type of course can Standard Learning Credits be used for?
The Standard Learning Credit scheme allows service personnel to study on personal or professional development courses. It is known as ‘elective lifelong learning’, so you can choose the course you would like to complete. The key consideration is that the course you choose must have a benefit to both you as an individual and to the Armed Forces. Each application is looked at on a case-by-case basis as the justification you will write is unique to you.
If you need some inspiration, have a look on the Learning and Development Portal on Defence Connect. It host the full list of courses that were signed off in 2020 – every single little hidden gem that the Army will pay for you to attend.
Would you like to try any of these, for example?
- Project management courses.
- Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC).
- Music production lessons.
- Bike maintenance course.
- Sports coaching course.
- Blacksmiths and metal craft.
- Property maintenance.
- Strength and conditioning courses.
- Part time academic or vocational courses at a Further Education college.
- Individual language tuition.
So how do I use them?
The process is simple. The seven steps are shown in the diagram below. The form you need to fill in can be found here. It can be completed and signed electronically.
There are some requirements the courses have to meet, so always get your Standard Learning Credit form approved by your Chain of Command and an Education Officer before you spend any money to make sure you can be reimbursed.
If you haven’t used your Standard Learning Credits since last April, you have until the March pay run to complete a course and submit your claim to be reimbursed using this year’s allocation. They don’t accumulate, so use them or lose them!
Need some more inspiration?
There are almost limitless opportunities. However sometimes that is just too much choice! So here are some popular ideas for Standard Learning Credits (prices correct as of 31/01/2022). This list is not exhaustive, and if you have an idea or a course you know of that you want to use your Standard Learning Credits for, then speak to your local Army Education Centre. And do not forget you can see the full list of courses that were signed off in 2020 on the Learning and Development Portal on Defence Connect.
Improve your IT skills
Level 2 International Certificate of Digital Literacy (ICDL – formally ECDL). £86.40 full price – £17.28 personal contribution.
ICDL have various courses to help meet the demands of today’s digital world. They give you a world recognised digital literacy qualification that aims to make you a more proficient computer user, particularly in Microsoft Office applications (Word, Excel and PowerPoint). If you want to complete an ICDL course, get in touch with your local education centre as the e-learning centres host the courses at a reduced rate. It is just a £17.28 personal contribution for the level 2 course when combined with your Standard Learning Credits. You have up to 1 year to complete the course, however many complete it within 1-2 weeks. The learning can take place in the e-learning centre using their computers or at home using your own device (except the exams).
Learn a new language
Lifelong membership to Rosetta Stone. £199 full price – £39.80 personal contribution.
Rosetta Stone is a language learning programme on an app or a desktop. Look out for an offer on the Rosetta Stone website as you can often get a self-study membership that provides you access to all 24 languages for a lifetime for less than £200 (reduced from £349!). This would result in your personal contribution being less than £40. You can justify language learning with Standard Learning Credits providing: you are preparing for a possible (not necessarily even agreed) move to an overseas location, supporting a Defence Engagement activity, or to develop a Defence priority language.
There are alternate providers such as Duolingo or Babbel and the Standard Learning Credit entitlement could also contribute to the cost of attending language classes using a tutor.
Don’t forget to use the Army Library Information Service (ALIS) which also has language learning provisions for Defence languages such as Arabic and French for free.
Gain a world-recognised mental health qualification
Mental Health First Aid Course with St John’s Ambulance – £240 full price – £65 personal contribution.
St John’s Ambulance is a provider of Mental Health First Aid Training courses (although again there are many other providers to choose from). They deliver a practical approach to mental health first aid, based on real life scenarios. Learners will gain the knowledge and skills to respond effectively to situations that they might face at work. The one-day course is a Level 2 award from awarding organisation FutureQuals, meaning it is a nationally recognised qualification. You could also complete a 2-day course that gives you a level 3 qualification for £360 if you wanted to; although this would require a larger personal contribution as Standard Learning Credits are limited to £175 per financial year).
Key points to note
It is a personal development refund scheme.
If claiming for an eligible course, you can claim 80% of course fees up to a maximum of £175 per financial year.
Make sure your claim is in before the March Payroll (14 March for the 2021/2022 Standard Learning Credit entitlement) to ensure you can claim each financial year.
The proposed activity must have developmental value and a proof of learning, such as a record of learning or a certificate of completion must be produced; there is no requirement for the courses to lead to a formal qualification
Courses must have a benefit to the service, so it cannot be purely for leisure or personal interest. But be imaginative!
You can complete multiple courses each year until the full £175 entitlement is spent. Therefore, if 80% of the course cost is less than £175, you could complete another course and use the rest of the entitlement towards that.
Where can I find more information?
The up-to-date policy for the Standard Learning Credit scheme can be found in JSP 822 Part 1, section 8.4.
ABN 149/2020 introduces changes to allow greater flexibility to using Standard Learning Credits to support personal learning and development, instigated by changes due to COVID. The changes have since been made permanent and will be written into JSP 822. This includes that learning no longer has to lead to a nationally recognised qualification, online courses can be completed and training materials, such as books, that are required by a course can be funded through Standard Learning Credits.
Make the most your Standard Learning Credits before the end of the financial year and encourage your colleagues and friends to do so, too.
And if you think we have missed a great course idea that you have used your Learning Credits on, then add it below in the comments.
About the author: Melissa Ilic is a Learning Development Officer in 10 Army Education Centre Group.
If you found this interesting and are looking for more personal development ideas, you can also check out our 50 Free Online Courses article.