Hot Off The Press

Discounts, AAT Exam Results and Grades – update yourself on the latest AAT news!

A few important AAT updates for those studying on the AQ2013 syllabus as well as those studying on the AQ2016 syllabus.

Studying on the AQ2013 syllabus:

Firstly, just a reminder that as of 1st September, the AAT launched their new AQ2016 syllabus. If you started studying prior to this and wish to remain on the AQ2013 syllabus, it is vital that you do not allow your annual membership to lapse, so do double check this. (Go to your MYAAT account on the AAT website – there is normally a reminder there if your account is due to lapse soon)

The AATs exam deadline for the AQ2013 syllabus is 31st December 2017 (although good luck trying to find an exam centre that will allow you to sit an exam on New Year’s Eve!!)

Whilst this deadline should pose no problems for the majority of students (your Individual Learning Plans will have a target completion date of earlier than 31 December 2017!), if you do think you will struggle to meet this deadline, then you can transfer across to the new AQ2016 syllabus. HOWEVER, you can only transfer across a maximum of 50% of your exam units to AQ2016; if you are in any doubt, please discuss this with your Personal Tutor.


You are on the AAT Level 2 Certificate in Accounting and have completed the following units:

  • PBKT
  • CJBS
  • CPAG

but still have BCST and WKAF to sit. In this instance, you will only be able to transfer PBKT and CJBS across to the AQ2016 syllabus i.e. you will have to resit CPAG.

If you would like to transfer across to the AQ2016 syllabus, do let us know – we, (as an AAT Approved Training Provider) will need to organise the transfer for you.

AAT PBKT, CJBS and ITAX Exams on the AQ2013 syllabus

Changes to UK legislation made in 2015 have affected the way in which all businesses have to account for VAT when offering a prompt payment discount (previously known as a settlement discount).

As a result of this, there are now 2 separate exams available for PBKT, CJBS and ITAX when exam centres are scheduling them on SecureAssess.

Your learning materials on Moodle relate to “Settlement Discounts” (Early Settlement Discounts – ESD), so when booking your exams, it is vital to make it clear to your exam centre that you wish to sit the following:

  • PBKT: your exam centre must select PBKT ESD (NOT PBKT PPD)
  • CJBS:  your exam centre must select CJBS ESD (NOT CJBS PPD)
  • ITAX:  your exam centre must select ITAX ESD (NOT ITAX PPD)

As a final check, when you are issued with your keycode slip, just doublecheck the exam name BEFORE you enter your keycode. If you suspect that you have been entered for the incorrect exam, you must notify your invigilator immediately (once the keycode has been entered, your exam cannot be cancelled, so a new exam would need to be booked and paid for).

Studying on the AQ2016 syllabus:

Exam Results

In addition to the normal Competent / Not Yet Competent result shown on your AAT exam results slip, you will also receive an overall percentage for each exam, providing that:

You are registered with the AAT for one of the four following qualifications:

  • AAT Foundation Certificate in Accounting
  • AAT Foundation Diploma in Accounting & Business
  • AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting
  • AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting

You will not receive an overall percentage if you are undertaking an AAT short qualification e.g.

  • AAT Foundation Certificate in Bookkeeping (see our courses page here)
  • AAT Accounting Skills to Run Your Business (see our courses page here)


In addition to the percentage for each exam (if registered on one of the AATs four full course qualifications mentioned above), you will be awarded a grade for your qualification which we believe to be:

  • Pass (70%)
  • Merit (80%)
  • Distinction (90%)

You can view all of your exam results on the AATs website via “Your Assessment Results and Statement of Achievements” online services.

If you would like to chat to us on any of the above, please give us a call on 01392 311925 or email

BLOG: Do graduates earn more over their lifetime than apprentices

Do Graduates Earn More Over Their Lifetime Than Apprentices?

The BBC website recently reported on a paper by the Intergenerational Foundation stating that “Successive governments have used the graduate “pay premium” to justify the continual increases in University fees. ( )

This “premium” is the amount of extra money it is estimated a degree can help graduates to earn over the course of a lifetime. The report says that in 2002, ministers put it at £400,000, but recent estimates have been more modest at about £100,000.”

It goes on to say that:

“Our research proves that the current £100,000 graduate earnings premium so often touted equates to an ‘annual bonus’ of just £2,222 over 45 years of work and is wiped out once National Insurance and income tax are taken into account. Furthermore, the premium is simply not enough to cover the interest accruing on the average loan.

The authors say a graduate who borrowed the maximum for tuition fees and maintenance would, with interest, owe £53,000 after three years.

If unpaid for the full 30 years before being written off and if bank rates follow the pattern of the previous 30 years, the debt would reach £282,420, they calculate.

In addition, unlike most ordinary loan agreements, the terms and conditions of student loans can be changed “at any moment without debate and without notice”, they add.

There are many reasons for choosing to go to Uni. For some professions it is the required entry route. However this is no longer the case for careers in Accountancy – and from this research, the economic case for it now seems very doubtful.

  • Apprenticeships therefore provide an excellent alternative for bright school leavers. They also have the added benefit for employers of:
  • Attracting government funding to support the cost of apprenticeship training (fully funded for those aged 16-18)
  • No NIC contributions for apprentices aged under 25 on earnings up to the Upper Earnings Limit
  • The possibility of an AGE grant of £1,500 for small employers (less than 50 staff) employing an apprentice for the first time in a 12 month period.
  • Attracting some very able school leavers with A level results that would have achieved access to Uni and who are extremely motivated and practical.
  • The study skills acquired during “A” levels are probably more suited to the early years of professional studies than those acquired during a degree

Therefore Apprenticeships appear to offer an excellent route to an accounting qualification for both students and employers.

If you would like to know more about our AAT Apprenticeship programme, you can find more information here

Pick Your Own

If your want to “pick your own” you may need to grow them yourself!

According to recent research carried out by APSCo member Randstad, the UK will see a shortfall of 10,200 qualified accountants by 2050 due to many factors, including skills shortages and restrictive migration policies and work permit laws.

This is despite statistics published by SJD Accountancy that show a 65.4% increase in the number of non-EU accountants since 2010 and a corresponding increase in the number of work permits issued to non-EU accountants.

Moreover, the recent Brexit vote could further exacerbate matters, with the possibility of a change in migration laws

The implication of the above is that we are not growing enough accountants in the UK. The basic rules of supply and demand would indicate that if the supply of accountants is increasingly lower than the demand, salaries will rise. Also, the UK is not the only country suffering. Australia and Canada seem to have similar problems.

According to figures released in a 2015 Australian Government Department of Employment labour market research paper on Accountants, a quarter of surveyed accounting vacancies remained unfilled six weeks after advertising in 2015.

“There were, on average, around 22 applicants per vacancy who were known to hold relevant qualifications at the bachelor degree or higher level1, but just 2.6 per vacancy were assessed as being suitable,” the report added.

This ties in with our own experience. One of our clients advertised for a couple of AAT vacancies in the Spring. They received over 100 applicants but could only find 5 worth interviewing. Of these 5, only 1 was suitable and was offered a job – which they could not accept because they couldn’t obtain a work permit!
They have now thankfully filled their vacancies, but is a hugely time consuming process.

The lesson?

Don’t expect there to be a ready supply of suitable candidates at the time you choose to recruit. There is also likely to be competition for those candidates that are suitable.

You should try to tip the scales in your favour by building up a “pipeline” of potential candidates:

  • Work with schools to promote accountancy as an attractive career for their brightest and best
  • Do presentations to their 6th form and/or their GCSE group. Take one of your existing apprentices with you. Kids will relate more to them than to you
  • Attend careers events at the schools where you would hope to attract future candidates
  • Offer term time work experience to Year 10s (1st year of GCSEs) or even earlier, before students have chosen their options (note: ICAEW provide members a free work experience toolkit
  • Use this as a basis of offering follow up work experience over the summer holidays – probably over 4 weeks so they can get stuck into some real work
  • Assess how they have done and provide feedback
  • Those who have done well and fitted in well, offer follow up work experience, over the next summer holidays
  • Probably best to avoid the Easter hols as they could/should be preparing for impending exams!
  • If you generally look to recruit at least one AAT / Apprentice each year, you will probably need to have at least two Year 10s every year so that you have a pool to choose from
  • Gear up to provide consistent work experience each year. Ideally a mix of manual and computerised accounting. Some clients with “nice books”. Identify suitable buddies in the office. Establish a simple process with set staff responsible so it does not become “a pain”.

For those based in the South West, we can probably help on quite a lot of the above:

  • We attend a series of schools and apprenticeship careers events. Let us know if you are looking to recruit and/or happy to offer work experience, and when
  • We also do careers presentations at certain schools
  • We can advise on how to develop a short work experience programme
    We run our own “Talent programme” for suitable candidates looking for an apprenticeship. This provides initial assessment, careers guidance, job hunting advice and some free initial bookkeeping training to help them become more employable

If you would like advice on any of the above, do give us a call on 01392 311925 or email

Don't Panic Jonesy

Are you panicking about life after Brexit?

Are you worried about the impact of Brexit? It is evident from the media and many people you talk to that there is some concern about how Brexit will affect us. There’s a fear of the unknown… and no-one knows what the future will hold.

However, DON’T PANIC!

Whether you voted LEAVE or REMAIN, you will still have a career and a future.


You are travelling from Exeter to Nottingham and you’ve heard that there may be roadworks on the M1, M4 or M5. However, you’re not sure which motorway is affected. Would this stop you driving up to Nottingham? Or, would you make a decision to travel anyway and then adjust your course once you find out which motorway is closed?

Corporal Jones might ‘stay put’. Will you?

Likewise, when it comes to our future, we all have choices and decisions to make, regardless of the current uncertainty. If you’re thinking about starting a career in accounting, you may not be sure whether you want to be a financial accountant, a management accountant, a public finance accountant or a bookkeeper. Would this uncertainty stop you studying anything until things are clear? NO! Whichever accounting route you ultimately take, you will need a basic knowledge of bookkeeping and accounting – all included in AAT Levels 2 and 3. You can make a decision about what type of accountant you want to be when you get to AAT Level 4.

In the meantime, there are three key things to think about:


Where do you want to go? What do you want to achieve? What is your end goal? What do you want for you and your loved ones?


Look at the options available to get where you want to go. Make a decision to go somewhere, rather than simply staying put!
‘Decision’ is the empowering opposite of ‘worry’.
Whatever you decide, you then need to take…


“if it’s to be… it’s up to me” – what’s stopping you?


if you decide to embark on a career in accounting or bookkeeping, there are TWO good reasons why there is no better time than NOW, to take action:

AAT Syllabus change:

As of 1st September 2016 the AAT are introducing their new AQ2016 syllabus. The major change to this syllabus is the addition of a ‘synoptic’ exam at each AAT level, so extra work!

To avoid this, you need to be enrolled on your course and registered with the AAT by 31st August 2016. If you’d like to know more about what is involved with either syllabus, please do get in touch.

Price Increase:

Well, we’ve held off increasing our prices for the past two years, but with the added work involved with the AAT new syllabus, we will be putting our prices up for AQ2016 enrolments.

Time moves by, whether you want it to or not.

If you don’t choose a future, a future will choose you…and it might not be the one you dreamt of!

For pretty much every type of business you can think of, there will be some form of accounting requirement – having bookkeeping and accounting skills can really open up a diverse range of options, so it’s a career that is definitely worth considering.

So when you’re pondering on Brexit and wondering what to do (whatever it is), just make sure you don’t do a Corporal ‘Jonesy’!

Matt Johns at the North Devon Journal Business Awards 2016

Apprentice of the Year!

AAT Annual Training Provider Awards

Last week we attended the AAT’s Annual Training Provider Conference – and in force too, as 9 of us travelled up to Birmingham for the 2 days (5th and 6th May). On the Thursday evening, the AAT held their Training Provider Awards Ceremony – we were delighted to have been shortlisted (along with 3 other providers) for the AAT Champion Award. Additionally, Matt Johns who is an AAT Apprentice in training with us; was shortlisted as Apprentice of the Year.

Nine of us from Accountancy Learning at the AAT Awards 2016

Sadly, neither we nor Matt won our respective awards, however…

North Devon Journal Business Awards 2016

We also submitted an entry for Matt to the annual North Devon Journal Business Awards (ceremony also on 5th May), again, in the Apprentice of the Year category.

And… he won!!! Many congratulations to Matt on his amazing achievement.

And… here’s why he won:


Matt’s parents run their own business, as did his grandparents. He has learnt from their work ethic and their community involvement and is now applying this himself. Being an extremely focussed individual, he has clear objectives, is highly motivated, studies hard and works hard.

His Apprenticeship has been with Maynard Johns, an accounting practice based in Bideford, North Devon.

Progress on his AAT Apprenticeship in Accounting

  • Matt enrolled directly onto AAT Level 3 in September 2014
  • He progressed to AAT Level 4 in September 2015
  • And he’s due to complete his AAT Level 4 by September 2016
  • Matt then wants to progress to ACA studies

His work in the office has developed steadily alongside his studies so that he can apply his skills as he acquires them.

Challenges that Matt has Overcome

Matt suffers from IgA nephropathy, a possible life-shortening kidney condition, involving occasional hospitalisation. Rather than holding him back, this has motivated him to drive harder to achieve his ambitions.

“Having this kidney condition (IgA nephropathy) has given me the boost I need to achieve big whilst I still have the ability to do so! Having this possible life-shortening condition has been a huge battle, but I am using it in a positive light to give myself the motivation to succeed more than ever!”

General Observations

As well as his full time Apprenticeship in a North Devon accountancy practice, Matt runs his own printing business (by himself) and finds time for a considerable amount of voluntary work with his local tennis club.

From September 2013, he has been designing and printing orders of service for over 100 families across North Devon. He has also used these contacts to help friends develop their own businesses providing music for funerals. This helps build Matt’s business networks at the same time.

His tennis activities involve:

  • Level 2 qualified tennis coaching for children aged 4-18 and assisting with a mini tennis festival every quarter
  • Men’s Captain – of Atlantic Racquet Centre Tennis & Sports Club, managing 8 teams
  • Club committee duties, including organising their tournament programme and preparing the project accounts
  • Development committee duties – a project for a 4 in-door, 6 out-door, multi-racquet sports facility, getting involved in the design, marketing and promotion sub-committees
  • Submission of only successful application in Devon to host “a day with the Davis Cup” – planned for 4.9.16

Sometimes students grumble when we expect them to put in 8 hours of study each week….

Matt’s week comprises:

  • Employment as an Accounting Apprentice: 37.5 hours
  • Running own printing business: 25 hours
  • Mini Tennis Coaching: 5 hours
  • Private Tennis Coaching: 3 hours
  • Men’s Captaincy: 6 hours
  • Tennis Committees: 4 hours
  • Website Updating: 3 hours
  • Oh yes, and undertaking AAT studies: 8 hours
  • Total: 91.5 hours = 13 hours a day

(He has signed a Working Time Directive waiver!)

And he does all this despite his IgA nephropathy – or perhaps because of it.

And …… he is a really nice guy!


VAT and the NEW settlement discount rules

VAT on Settlement Discounts: A reminder of the changes

Are you ready for your head to hurt!?!

Up until 31 March 2015, suppliers making offers of early settlement discounts were permitted to put on their invoice, and account for, the VAT due on the discounted price, even if the full price (i.e. the undiscounted amount) was subsequently paid.

This is how the AAT exams currently deal with it and how we cover it in our learning materials. (N.B. The AAT will be updating the rules in their new AQ2016 syllabus launching in September 2016)

Apart from being a tricky thing for students to learn about (and calculate!) early on in their accounting studies, the administration of this process was fairly straightforward


Gadget Ltd sells widgets for £100 each, net of VAT at 20% – i.e. £120 including VAT.
Normal payment terms are 60 days. However, because cash is tight for Gadget Ltd, they now decide to offer their customers a settlement discount of 5% if payment is made within 15 days.
(When you get to AAT Level 4, you can learn how to calculate the effective cost of doing this. Ow!)

  • The VAT they now charge is £19.
    £100 less 5% discount = £95.
    £95 x 20% VAT = £19
    (alternatively you can simply calculate £100 x 0.95 x 0.20 = £19)
  • If the customer pays within 15 days, they pay £95 + £19 = £114
  • If the customer pays after 15 days, they pay £100 + £19 = £119.

The VAT does not impact on a VAT registered customer as they can reclaim it anyway. However for Joe Public, who isn’t registered, this treatment saves them £1. If they were buying something costing £10,000, they would save £100.


HMRC clearly did not like this and from 01 April 2015 they changed the rules.

I can only assume that some naughty suppliers offered silly settlement discounts:


Fidget Ltd sells widgets for £100 each, net of VAT at 20% – i.e. £120 including VAT.
Normal payment terms are 60 days. However they have a new FD who decides to offer a settlement discount to (specified credit customers only) of 95% if payment is made within 1 hour!!??!! i.e. nobody can actually take advantage of it.

  • The VAT they now charge is £1.
    £100 less 95% discount = £5.
    £5 x 20% VAT = £1
    (alternatively you can simply calculate £100 x 0.05 x 0.20 = £1)
  • If the customer pays after 1 hour, they pay £100 + £1 = £101
  • If the customer pays within 1 hour, they pay £5 + £1 = £6, but of course Fidget doesn’t let this happen. It is only worth doing for non VAT registered customers.

End result is that HMRC only receive £1 of VAT, instead of £20. This makes HMRC unhappy. They are probably also fairly unhappy about receiving £19 instead of £20.


This all changed on 1st April 2015.
Is the date significant I wonder?!!?

Suppliers must now account for VAT on the amount they actually receive and customers may recover the amount of VAT that is actually paid to the supplier.

This is not as simple as it sounds and makes the whole process of offering settlement discounts a considerable pain.

Partly because of this, the AAT have not as yet changed the way that they assess the treatment of settlement discounts. It is still assessed under the old rules. Hence our learning materials still teach the old rules. It will be interesting to see how this is covered under the new AQ2016 syllabus being introduced in September 2016.

In order to explain the mechanics of how to implement the new rules, we thought it would actually be simpler (not sure if simple is the right word!?!) to repeat the wording from the HMRC Brief 49 (2014): VAT – Prompt Payment Discounts. However, before we do this, let’s refer back to the previous example and see what should happen under the new rules:


Gadget Ltd sells widgets for £100 each, net of VAT at 20% – i.e. £120 including VAT.
Normal payment terms are 60 days. However, because cash is tight for Gadget Ltd, they now decide to offer their customers a settlement discount of 5% if payment is made within 15 days.

  • The VAT they now charge is £19.
    £100 less 5% discount = £95.
    £95 x 20% VAT = £19
    (alternatively you can simply calculate £100 x 0.95 x 0.20 = £19)
  • If the customer pays within 15 days, they pay £95 + £19 = £114
  • If the customer pays after 15 days, they pay £100 + £20 = £120

This all looks very straightforward.


Gadget Ltd initially issued an invoice showing £100 + £19 (less potential discount of £5).

If the customer pays after 15 days they will need to:

  • either issue another invoice for the £1 extra VAT
  • or issue a credit note for the first invoice and an invoice for £100 + £20


  • Gadget Ltd could simply issue this invoice of £100 + £20 (less potential discount of £5) in the first place.
  • However, if the customer does pay within 15 days, Gadget Ltd have charged too much VAT and will need to issue a credit note for the £1 excess VAT.

What a pain. Will Gadget Ltd really want to bother with settlement discounts at all??

Now – grab a cup of coffee and a deep breath. Here is the HMRC explanation…

HMRC Explanation:

“A PPD is an offer by a supplier to their customer of a reduction in the price of goods and/or services supplied if the customer pays promptly; that is, after an invoice has been issued and before full payment is due. For example a business may offer a discount of 5% of the full price if payment is made within 14 days of the date of the invoice.

At present, suppliers making PPD offers are permitted to put on their invoice, and account for, the VAT due on the discounted price, even if the full price (i.e. the undiscounted amount) is subsequently paid. Customers receiving PPD offers may only recover as input tax the VAT stated on the invoice.

After the change, suppliers must account for VAT on the amount they actually receive and customers may recover the amount of VAT that is actually paid to the supplier.


a) on issuing a VAT invoice, suppliers will enter the invoice into their accounts, and record the VAT on the full price. If offering a PPD suppliers must show the rate of the discount offered on their invoice (Regulation 14 of the VAT Regulations 1995 (SI 1995/2518)).

b) the supplier will not know if the discount has been taken-up until they are paid in accordance with the terms of the PPD offer, or the time limit for the PPD expires.

c) the supplier will need to decide, before they issue an invoice, which of the processes below they will adopt to adjust their accounts in order to record a reduction in consideration if a discount is taken-up.

d) when adjustments take place in a VAT accounting period subsequent to the period in which the supply took place the method of adjustment needs to comply with Regulation 38 of the VAT Regulations 1995 (SI 1995/2518).

e) suppliers may issue a credit note to evidence the reduction in consideration. In which case, a copy of the credit note must be retained as proof of that reduction.

f) alternatively, if they do not wish to issue a credit note, the invoice must contain the following information (in addition to the normal invoicing requirements):

  • The terms of the PPD (PPD terms must include, but need not be limited to, the time by which the discounted price must be made).
  • A statement that the customer can only recover as input tax the VAT paid to the supplier.

Additionally, it might be helpful for invoices to show:

  • the discounted price
  • the VAT on the discounted price
  • the total amount due if the PPD is taken up.

g) if a business has adopted the option at (f), the VAT invoice, containing appropriate wording as described above, together with proof of receipt of the discounted price in accordance with the terms of the PPD offer (e.g. a bank statement) will be required to evidence the reduction in consideration, and the reduction to the supplier’s output tax (in accordance with Regulation 38 of the VAT Regulations 1995).

h) we recommend businesses use the following wording on the invoice:

“A discount of X% of the full price applies if payment is made within Y days of the invoice date. No credit note will be issued. Following payment you must ensure you have only recovered the VAT actually paid.”

i) if the discounted price is paid in accordance with the PPD terms, then the supplier must adjust their records to record the output tax on the amount actually received.

If the full amount is received no adjustment will be necessary.


On receiving an invoice offering a PPD a VAT registered customer may recover the VAT charged, in accordance with VAT Regulation 29 of the VAT Regulations 1995.

As adjustments may take place in a VAT accounting period subsequent to the period in which the supply took place the method of adjustment needs to comply with Regulation 38 of the VAT Regulations 1995 (SI 1995/2518).

In practice this will mean:

a) if the customer pays the full price they record it in their records and no VAT adjustment is necessary.

b) if the customer pays the discounted price in accordance with the PPD terms on receipt of the invoice they may record the discounted price and VAT on this in their accounts and no subsequent VAT adjustment is necessary.

c) if the customer does not pay when the invoice is first issued, they must record the full price and VAT in their records as shown on the invoice. If they subsequently decide to take-up the PPD then:

If they have received an invoice setting out the PPD terms which states no credit note will be issued they must adjust the VAT in their records when payment is made. They should retain a document that shows the date and amount of payment (e.g. a bank statement) in addition to the invoice to evidence the reduction in consideration.

If the supplier’s invoice does not state that a credit note will not be issued, the customer must adjust the VAT they claim as input tax when the credit note is received. They must retain the credit note as proof of the reduction in consideration.”

It is therefore essential to get the paperwork correct, or suffer the consequences of an incorrect VAT Return.

One does wonder whether the risk of doing it wrong and consequently being hauled over the coals by HMRC will put off businesses from offering prompt payment discounts (PDDs) in future.

Will businesses bother with PDDs in future?

Emma Grant

What AAT Tutor Emma Grant will be doing on 23rd April…

On Saturday 23rd April, I shall be taking part in a sponsored walk (to WESC – an 8 mile + walk), along the beautiful Exe Estuary path, from Exmouth to the WESC Foundation – the Specialist Centre for Visual Impairment, in Exeter. The walk is due to start between 9.00 am and 10.00 am.

The Exe Trail cycle path and walkway runs along the Exe Estuary from Exmouth all the way to WESC, passing through some of the most fantastic views and picturesque villages in the West Country.  It is also very popular with bird watchers.  The route is over 8 miles and is very well signed which makes for a relaxed and enjoyable walk.  The route is also wheelchair and push chair friendly, so all the family can take part.

I have also helped to organise this walk and, having worked at the WESC Foundation last year, I wanted to give something back to the young adults who reside there all year round.  So I thought to myself, what better way than organising a sponsored walk – something that young and old, friends and family alike, can take part in!

I have walked the route twice already, and on both occasions had fantastic weather.  The photo above is of myself with one of the WESC students, Fiona, when we walked the route for the first time at the end of October last year.  We’re pictured at the bottom of Lympstone village, with the mouth of the Exe Estuary behind us at low tide.  Fiona will also be doing the walk with me on the day and she has been very helpful with planning the route too.

I have also organised a concert by the Exmouth Town Concert Band, on the sports field at WESC, to welcome all the walkers back.  There will be refreshments available including cream teas and cakes etc, or you can bring your own picnic, while you sit back and enjoy listening to the band!

The children and young people at WESC Foundation all have sight loss and many have additional complex needs; they all achieve amazing things every day, but just going about daily tasks can present them with huge challenges.  They work so hard in order to overcome their obstacles and this is what inspired me to help organise and fundraise this sponsored walk.

The money that I raise will go towards projects at WESC Foundation that I know will make a massive difference to the lives of the young people that I work with.

If you would like to sponsor me…

You can do so through Virgin Money Giving (the link is at the bottom of this page) and donations will be quickly processed and passed to WESC Foundation.

Virgin Money Giving is a not for profit organisation and will claim gift aid on the charity’s behalf, where the donor is eligible for this.

Alternatively, if you’re one of our local AAT students reading this, please do feel free to enter the walk yourself (see the WESC Foundation link below for details!), or come along to the WESC Foundation in the afternoon to enjoy the Band and a cream tea, and cross your fingers for some lovely weather!

I really appreciate all your support and thank you for your donations and taking the time to read this.


Interview Room for Blog

Applying for an Apprenticeship in Accountancy? Common Mistakes – Part 2

So here is Part 2 of the 9 most common mistakes when applying for an apprenticeship!

Following on from our BLOG at the beginning of this week (to coincide with National Apprenticeship week), here are the remaining 4 common mistakes made when applying for an Apprenticeship in Accounting:

6. Don’t be too self-assured

It’s important to demonstrate your strengths, but just take a little care with your wording. Ideally, get someone else to read your application and ask them how you come across.


 “I can do mental maths sums in head without needing a calculator. Always topped my class from Year 1 to Year 11 and used to help out everyone else in my class with their sums.”

This applicant sounds very able, but also a touch arrogant – an interviewer might be tempted to give him a mental maths test to prove his claims!

“I’m always trying new foods and often eat more than the average size 8 female; I love the look on waiters faces when I’ve cleared my plate of a big meal!”

This is a rather unusual thing to write in a job application, even under the hobbies and interests section! Trying to use humour in your application can backfire (it might not be a ‘good fit’ with an existing team). In this instance, what the applicant has said also bears absolutely no relevancy to a career in accounting.

7. Don’t make assumptions about the job you are applying for

We received this response under the section “what are your skills and hobbies?”

“I played football for 10 years before I had to stop as I got a job that required me to work Saturdays, unfortunately meaning I could not play anymore. However I would like to start playing again and hopefully this will happen when I can stop working weekends in this job.”

The application was otherwise excellent, but this comment implies that the applicant would not be flexible about working during a weekend and this could be very important to some employers.

8. Demonstrate your interest, eagerness and commitment!

You have the perfect academic grades and a well formatted CV, but why are you still not getting interviews?

Well, what are your responses to questions likes this….?

  • QUESTION: “Why do you want to become an Accountant?”

“I enjoy working with numbers and have always had an ability to manage money well”

“To progress in a field, that has good career prospects, and a competitive salary”

  • QUESTION: “Why do you want an Apprenticeship in Accounting?”

“I am looking to gain experience with the accounting field, i feel that an apprenticeship would be an ideal way of doing this”

(There’s that small ‘i’ again!)

Whilst accountancy may well be the perfect career for you, the comments above lack conviction – there’s nothing there to convince me that you would excel in accountancy. An employer needs to see that you are serious, committed and have potential – after all, they will be spending several years and several thousands of pounds training you up!

Application questions or covering letters offer a really important opportunity for you to show off your talents and convince an employer that they should hire you – providing a credible reason for your interest in accountancy is a MUST.

It may seem obvious to you, and maybe your family and friends, but we have no idea who you are or what you are like – are you are genuinely interested in an accountancy career? Or are you just applying for all the jobs on the website because you don’t want to go to university?

Regardless of the application format, there will be a section where you have the opportunity to express yourself freely, so really think carefully about this section – if there are weaknesses in other parts of your application, what you write here can make all the difference between your application being forwarded to an employer – or… thrown in the bin!

RESEARCH! Find out what accountancy actually is! We get lots of applications that mention “being good with numbers” but accountancy includes a multitude of facets and specialisms. Your “trustworthy cash handling skills” in respect of your retail experience, will be largely irrelevant.

9. Write all your emails as if they are a letter, not a text!

Before, or during your application, you may have the need to contact employers or recruiters.

In all instances, you MUST ensure that you write emails in an appropriately professional manner.

Generally, the first email someone sends is quite polite, but once an email string has started, enquirers seem to think they are on a Facebook thread and start getting lazy. It takes very little effort to construct a proper email each time (don’t rely on your phone’s autocorrect!)


Based on a real email string, ‘Lisa’ here sounded like a plausible candidate to start with…


Good morning, I am interested in Accountancy Apprenticeships and was wondering if you know of any vacancies in the Exeter area. I am taking my A levels this summer and so would be looking to find a job that starts after my exams. I appreciate any help. Kind regards, Lisa.


Hi Lisa

Thanks for your email. We do currently know of one employer in Exeter who is looking for an A Level school leaver. I have attached the job vacancy to this email.

Would you be able to send me your CV?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards



Hi Emily. My CV is attach. Thanks.


Hi Lisa

Many thanks for your CV, I have forwarded this to the firm. If they are interested in your application they will contact you directly.

Many thanks



Do you know if there are any other jobs i can apply too plz?


Remember, everyone you interact with during job applications can have an effect on the outcome, so treat everyone as if they were the hiring and firing manager, (they most certainly will be reporting back to them)!

So, spending the time on your application, proof reading, making sure you meet the criteria, and most importantly, providing good reasons as to why you are interested in accountancy, should give you a good chance of getting called in for that interview!





Don't let you CV end up in the recycling bin

Applying for an Apprenticeship in Accountancy? Here are the 9 most common mistakes to watch out for…

It’s National Apprenticeship week!

So, with that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at some of the things that send applications straight to the recycling bin! We’ll run through the first 5 today and the remaining 4 in our Blog later this week.

One of the services we offer to employers is to advertise their accountancy apprenticeship vacancies for them. This includes reviewing the applications that come in before forwarding them onto the business hiring – we do this as it can be a time consuming process sifting through all the applications. Some applications are passed on to the employer, others aren’t. On occasion, we have seen the same applicant apply for multiple positions (demonstrating that they must be really keen), but they are never called in for an interview due to the poor quality of their application.

In this blog (based on real applications we have seen), we will outline the main reasons why applicants (even those that sound very keen) will never get their CV seen by a hiring manager. The reasons are all “easy fixes”, so hopefully, after reading this; amending your application will give you a better chance of getting that elusive interview!

And if you are just starting to think about applying, these tips should mean that your application has a fighting chance at the outset. (You should also check out Prue’s Blog “Looking for an Accountancy job?” for some excellent job application tips.)

1. Never NEVER trust an online CV Builder

Many recruitment sites and other organisations offer a CV builder where you pre fill the application boxes – it is supposed to put together a professional looking CV – it doesn’t! If you have put together a CV using a builder, make sure you edit and format it yourself after downloading it, don’t just send it off to employers.

There are 3 major problems with using a CV builder.

  • It indicates that you have no idea how to word process and format your own CV (lack of ability or too lazy to).
  • It often doesn’t display correctly and ends up a looking a mess e.g. your employment history being shown under “GCSE French”!
  • Not every box the builder makes you fill in may be relevant to you, so there will be gaps or inconsistencies.

By all means use template ideas to help you structure your CV, but you should be typing it up and formatting it yourself so that it looks presentable. It is also a good idea to save your CV as a PDF, so that when you send it out, the format won’t alter if the recruiter has a different version of Word to you.

2. Don’t rely on autocorrect, they won’t hire someone who can’t spell.

In any article about how to write a CV, spelling and grammar will always be mentioned. If these basic mistakes are apparent in your CV, it looks as though you didn’t care enough to proof read your application. Always get someone else to read it too – you know what you mean to say, but it’s likely some mistakes will be missed.

Further to this (and my personal pet peeve), an application will get nowhere if the applicant uses a little “i” as a pronoun! This looks as though you don’t have a basic grasp of English, or that you are reliant on auto-correct and have failed to notice that the change wasn’t made. It could also mean that you couldn’t be bothered to proof read your CV, or even worse, that you think using a little “i” is acceptable!


“I have good written and verbal communication skills ( i achieved a grade A in English at GCSE)”

This applicant started well, but I’m not sure they deserved that A grade…..


“i like challenging myself and i can use my initiative”

Not much initiative used in terms of proof reading – their application got no further.


“…relevant, I have a good sense of humour, with a can do attitude that means im not quick to moan or be defeated by a situation”

This applicant doesn’t know how to use apostrophes either.

3. Justify a change of direction

It may be that at 15 when you were picking your GCSE options, you had no idea what accountancy even was, but you then discovered it half way through your Fine Art BTEC and have now decided it’s what you really want to do. That’s great! But…. if your education doesn’t match your newly found career path, you do need to explain this. Firms want to see that you are committed and have an active interest in business.

One applicant had the following recent qualifications:

 Example qualifications on CV

Well, maybe after studying hairdressing she realised that it wasn’t the career path for her, but nowhere in her application has she explained this. A recruiter will think that she has either dropped out, is flaky and/or uncommitted. Simply add a section in your covering letter (or in answer to the question “why are you interested in accountancy”), to acknowledge that you started training in something else, and explain that you have decided accountancy is definitely what you want to do now – demonstrate how you can prove this e.g. by undertaking self-study, getting work experience or being treasurer of your local sports club.

4. Don’t waste everyone’s time, including your own.

Look carefully at the job you’re applying for, and only apply if you really want it. Applying for a job you don’t really want is a waste of both yours and the recruiter’s time.


What personal skills would you like to improve? (e.g. time management, questioning skills)

“I would like to become a fully qualified plumbing and gas engineer, who is the best in his field”

I don’t think this guy was truly committed to accountancy…

5. Check what grades you need

If a position requires you to have A Levels, and you have only just taken your GCSEs, you will be very unlikely to get the job.

However, if the job really does interest you, contact the firm directly – ask about work experience, find out what they look for in an application and then, when you have taken your A levels, you will be in the perfect position to apply for their recruitment wave that year.

Similarly, if the position says you must have “3 A Levels, grade A-B including Maths”, and you have A Level English C, Geography D and Psychology C, you probably won’t get the job. Again though, you can always ask about work experience – start an AAT short course through home study, and importantly when you make your application, justify why you are applying even though you don’t have the required subjects.

ALWAYS ADD PREDICTED GRADES! If you are taking your A Levels this summer, then add your predicted grades. This is what the employer will be looking for, and without the predicted grades, it looks as though you finished your GCSEs and have done nothing with your life since.

Look out for Part 2 of this Blog later in the week!

Antonio Buendia Castro

I’m studying AAT, English is my second language and I work full time. My experience…

Studying AAT via distance learning

Some of you may know me as I am part of the Accountancy Learning team. Aside from working here, I am studying my AAT Level 2 Introductory Certificate in Accounting.

When I was asked if I would like to do my AAT Level 2 qualification, I was worried because as a non-native English speaker, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it. When you try to study in a language that is not the one you are used to, it may seem a little bit intimidating. Even though I sometimes need to look up some words, it is not stopping me from learning and understanding the materials. I feel very confident with the comprehensive course materials, as they include presentations and voiceovers, which makes everything much easier to follow. In addition, I normally print out all the transcripts and exercises that are available in every session to download, as I find it less tiring to study that way given I spend all day in front of a PC. Some evenings… it’s also some bed time reading! If I add the help of my tutor, who is always willing to help me and answer all of my questions, it is even easier to gain confidence in every topic.

The good news about studying AAT courses by distance learning is the flexibility that it gives you to study at your own pace. If you are getting a little bit behind with your studies or you need more time to understand several topics, you don’t feel under pressure. From my experience and also as advised by my tutor, I try to study between 5/8 hours per week. My way of doing this is: I normally stay a couple of hours one evening per week after work, complemented by one extra evening at home and some extra hours at weekends; but I must admit I am not always able to do weekend part! :) I am very lucky that my Directors give me some time off during working hours to carry on with my studies.

I will very soon be taking my Control Accounts, Journals and Banking System (CJBS) exam (having already passed PBKT). I am now doing my course revision and lots of practice before taking my real exam. What about you? Are you still worrying about starting your AAT studies because you feel worried about the language or because you work full time?

P.S. The photo of me above, was taken in Barcelona, although I was brought up in Grenada where my family still live.

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