This section sets out our criteria and requirements for mandating qualifications in apprenticeships except for degrees which are covered separately.
This guidance was updated in September 2023. It reflects changes to the criteria following our consultation response on proposed improvements. The main changes relate to:
These changes are to ensure only suitable qualifications are mandated. The changes also support apprentices to complete their apprenticeship.
We decide whether a qualification can be mandated in an apprenticeship in two stages:
For live apprenticeships in revision (the majority of cases), you submit the Stage 1 information as you are developing your occupational standard. For new apprenticeships, you submit the Stage 1 information with your occupation proposal.
In both cases, subject to IfATE agreeing the mandate, we will progress Stage 2 as you are developing your occupational standard and EPA plan. You can then include a final list of qualifications to mandate when you submit your occupational standard and EPA plan for approval.
During this stage, you will also need to work with your Product Manager (PM) to decide if the qualification(s) can be integrated into the EPA.
This policy applies to all apprenticeship submissions where MQs (except degrees) are proposed. The following two exceptions apply:
In such circumstances, and subject to discussion with your PM, we will consider accepting a draft in line with that policy
For existing live apprenticeships, IfATE will apply the new policy as and when we review and revise them.
The effect of mandating a qualification in an apprenticeship is that all apprentices must pass the qualification as well as the EPA to complete the apprenticeship. There is no requirement to mandate a qualification in an apprenticeship. This is because passing the EPA confirms occupational competence. You can though, mandate a qualification where it meets one of the following criteria:
Regulatory or legal requirement.
The qualification is required by a regulator or other body with legal oversight of an occupation or key aspects of the role. This is often to confer a formal licence to practise the occupation. This guidance explains what a regulated profession and regulator is. It also provides details of professions regulated by law. This criterion also applies where there is a legal requirement linked to an activity which is not set by the occupation’s regulator but which the individual needs to undertake as part of their role. For example, this criterion applies if the role requires use of a certain type of machinery, and legislation requires users of that machinery to pass a particular qualification.
Professional body (PB) recognition requirement.
The qualification is required for professional recognition by a relevant PB. In this context, a relevant PB is a membership organisation generally recognised by employers as setting the benchmark competency requirements for individuals undertaking the occupation.
Labour market requirement.
The qualification is required by employers in the labour market. This is on such a widespread basis that an apprentice would be significantly disadvantaged without it. This disadvantage would prevent them securing employment in the occupation. You can also use this criterion if a qualification is deemed essential for further career progression in the same field. This could occur, for example, when the qualification is the main entry requirement for a related higher level training programme or qualification. In such cases, the content of the qualification should still not go beyond the KSBs.
The content of the MQ must be at the same level as the apprenticeship, or lower. This ensures that the qualification and its assessment requirements are appropriate for the apprenticeship. There may be an exception to this where a qualification at a higher level is a regulatory or legal requirement. For example, a level 3 health and safety qualification in a level 2 apprenticeship where no appropriate level 2 health and safety qualification exists.
MQs should align with - and not go wider than – the relevant knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) in the occupational standard. A mandated qualification does not need to align with all KSBs. It needs to align with the subset of KSBs identified by the TB and agreed with the PM. Where content is delivered by a MQ, this must still be captured in the KSBs. The awarding body (AB) must confirm whether and how their qualification aligns with the required KSBs and meets the mandate. The PM will email a form for the AB to set out if and how their qualification aligns with the relevant subset of KSBs. We will also use this form to gather evidence about assessment methods that we will need for integration. We will decide if the specific qualification meets our requirements based on this information. In situations where a qualification differs from the KSBs, you could address this by revising the KSBs. The KSBs would still need to reflect what is required for occupational competence.
In exceptional circumstances, where you regard some of a qualification’s content as essential, but it is not currently reflected in the KSBs, it may still be possible to mandate the qualification. This could apply, for example, where technology evolves quickly, or where a qualification addresses a particular local skills need. In most such cases, it should still be possible to revise the KSBs at the same time as mandating the qualification. However, we recognise that there may be circumstances where this is not possible. If we agree to such a qualification being mandated, we would expect you to update the KSBs in line with the MQ’s content as soon as is practical. Apart from in these exceptional circumstances, where a qualification delivers content beyond the finalised KSBs, we will not mandate it. Its content would first need to be amended to fall within the scope of the KSBs.
In exceptional circumstances, it may not be appropriate to include a list of the specific qualifications in the apprenticeship. Examples of where a different approach may be needed include:
In such circumstances, we would consider including in the occupational standard and EPA plan a description of the required qualification or a link to the regulatory requirement rather than including a list of specific equivalent qualifications.
Where you, as a trailblazer group, wish to mandate a qualification, a potential conflict of interest may arise if:
Where there is a risk of this, the trailblazer chair will need to manage it in line with the trailblazer group guidance. An AB should not be involved in any trailblazer decision to seek to mandate a qualification.
Where you wish to mandate a qualification in an apprenticeship you are revising, you must provide the information supporting this as early as possible during your work to revise the occupational standard. This is so that we can decide if the qualification can be mandated before you begin work on integrating the qualification into your revised EPA plan (if appropriate). This includes cases where the qualification was mandated in the previous version of the apprenticeship.
Where you wish to mandate a qualification in a new apprenticeship, you must provide this information as part of your occupation proposal.
You must provide the following information for any qualification you propose to mandate:
You also need to work with your PM to decide which KSBs you need the qualification to cover. This information will be used to ensure that the qualification aligns with the KSBs.
Information about Ofqual-registered qualifications is available on the Ofqual Register of Regulated Qualifications. Where a qualification is not Ofqual-regulated, you may not have all the above information. For example, sector subject area (SSA). In such cases, please enter ‘not applicable’ in the template.
For an HTQ or post-16 qualification, provide as much of this information as you can, and we will help to fill in any gaps.
For each qualification (or set of equivalent qualifications), you must provide evidence that it meets one of our criteria as follows.
You must provide a link to - or a copy of - the regulation that refers to the required qualification or qualifications. Only qualifications listed as accepted by the regulator meet this criterion.
Where qualifications are mandated to meet legal requirements, you must show how the legislation relates to the activities undertaken in the occupation. For example, an occupation may involve use of machinery for which a licence is needed. In this situation, we would need to see the legislation showing that a certain qualification is needed for use of the machinery. We would also need confirmation that the occupation requires usage of the machinery.
Professional body membership can be valuable to those entering certain occupations. A PB may require an individual to hold a qualification before recognising them as eligible for membership. In such cases, we prefer the PB to recognise the apprenticeship as providing the required level of competence. This is without the apprentice having to pass an additional qualification. You must discuss whether this is possible with the PB.
Where the PB does require a qualification to be mandated, you must provide third party evidence of the value and necessity of PB membership in securing employment in the occupation. This evidence may include:
You must also submit the following information from the PB. The PB should use our template for this purpose:
You must submit both a rationale and supporting evidence to justify mandating a qualification under this criterion.
We would expect the rationale to be no longer than two pages. It should address the following issues:
Where you are proposing to mandate a qualification on the basis that it is essential for further career progression in the same field, you must show that the qualification will support movement along clear and established occupational routes. You must also show how the qualification supplies key skills into the labour market.
In the exceptional circumstances described above, where you regard some of a qualification’s content as essential, but it cannot be immediately reflected in the KSBs, you must also explain why this is the case.
When seeking to mandate a qualification that is subject to one of our other approvals processes (for example, for an HTQ or a post-16 Level 2 or Level 3 qualification) note that such processes do not determine a qualification’s suitability for use in an apprenticeship. This means that a mandate for an approved qualification is not automatically accepted. Neither would a qualification that was not approved be automatically discounted. In either scenario, we will look at the reasons why and see if that same judgement applies in an apprenticeship context.
The supporting evidence
You must also provide qualitative and quantitative evidence from a range of sources. You do not need to submit all the evidence you have gathered. Instead, you should select the evidence, including samples where appropriate, that best supports your rationale. You should reference any evidence you submit in your rationale.
We may already hold much of the above evidence where a qualification has been submitted through one of our other approvals processes. Where this is the case, we will review the evidence we already hold. You are not required to submit new evidence, unless we request further information. You can also choose to supplement what we already have.
The following are examples of information sources that may evidence the need for a qualification in the labour market, but you are also free to submit other types:
We also need evidence to show how employers have been engaged (and continue to be engaged) in the development of the qualification to ensure it meets their needs. To address this, we will seek the following information from the relevant AB (unless it is an IfATE approved qualification) on how employers have been involved in the qualification development process, including in planned qualification review cycles:
Evidence that a range of employers has been consulted, which is representative of the occupation. This may include:
Evidence showing that employers agree that the qualification’s content reflects their needs, the assessment represents realistic industry requirements, and the pass grade is set at a level which assures them of an apprentice’s competence in relation to the KSBs covered by the qualification.
This information may be from surveys, workshops or other consultation activities.
Once you have provided the above information, we will consider if any qualifications you have proposed meet the relevant criterion for to be mandated. Where we agree in principle that a qualification (or group of equivalent qualifications) is suitable to be mandated, we will consider its suitability for integration with the end-point assessment. Effective integration is a condition of mandating a qualification except where it is not practical. For example, if a qualification must be passed early in the apprenticeship. This is covered in more detail in Section 5 below.
We will also consider if there are any other equivalent qualifications that should be mandated. This is to ensure that employers and apprentices have the widest possible choice. To decide if there are any equivalent qualifications that meet the mandate, we will:
Where an AB proposes an equivalent qualification to mandate, they need to agree to work with us to ensure they undertake any updates to the qualification with sufficient notice. This is so we can arrange to update the apprenticeship in good time.
Taking account of any inputs from ABs, your PM will agree a final list of qualifications with you to include with the submission of your draft occupational standard and EPA plan. This will then be subject to the normal IfATE approvals process.
Where an approved for delivery apprenticeship already includes an MQ, an AB is free to alert us, at any time, to any qualification they believe is equivalent to the MQ. The apprenticeship does not have to be under revision at that time. We will consider the potential need to update the apprenticeship in line with our wider prioritisation of apprenticeship reviews.
All apprenticeships have an on-programme period, gateway and end-point assessment (EPA) period. At gateway, the apprentice's employer believes the apprentice has reached occupational competence. The employer may take advice from the training provider. The apprentice's occupational competence is then tested by the EPA. To pass the gateway, the apprentice needs to have completed the gateway requirements. These are defined within the EPA plan.
Where a qualification is mandated, at least one of the mandated qualification’s (MQs) assessments should be integrated into the EPA. Exemptions apply in exceptional circumstances (see below).
Mandated qualifications can be:
Where the MQ has separate units or modules, at least one of these should be integrated into the EPA. Where the MQ does not have separately assessed units, the assessment of the MQ must be integrated into the EPA. The integrated assessment forms one of the EPA’s assessment methods. This integrated assessment method contributes to the overall outcome of the EPA. This means both the MQ and apprenticeship need to be completed, passed and awarded during the same period.
The EPA of apprenticeships with an integrated assessment method must be delivered by:
The AB is accountable for the integrated assessment method. The EPAO must take responsibility for all other assessment methods in the EPA. The EPAO and AB must have third party arrangements in place. This is to ensure that they work collaboratively to manage the delivery of the EPA. The EPAO must have overall accountability for deciding the outcome of the EPA. EPAOs must be on the apprenticeship provider and assessment register for the apprenticeship. This register was formerly known as the register of end-point assessment organisations (RoEPAO).
EPAs with an integrated assessment method must meet our requirements for EPA. The EPA must have sufficient coverage of KSBs and include different types of assessment methods. This is to minimise bias and enable sound judgement of occupational competence. EPAs will typically include an integrated assessment method and two non-integrated assessment methods. All assessment methods must be distinct from each other. This is to ensure there is a balance of KSBs across assessment methods. It is also so apprentices are not burdened in a single assessment method. The apprenticeship's EPA plan will detail the exact structure, requirements, and parameters of the EPA. This includes assessment methods, grading descriptors and roles and responsibilities.
The AB may need to redesign their qualification to align with the integrated assessment method requirements. This must happen before integration of the qualification into the EPA. This includes where multiple qualifications fulfil a single mandate, and those qualifications are integrated. If one or more of these qualifications does not align with the integrated assessment method requirements, the ABs will need to redesign these qualifications before they can be mandated for the apprenticeship and integrated into the EPA.
The EPA plan must set out who is accountable for the award of the integrated MQ. When integrating an assessment method, the AB must continue to follow rules and regulations applicable to their qualification. For example, those of Ofqual and industry regulators.
The AB is accountable for the integrated assessment method. The EPAO must take responsibility for all other assessment methods in the EPA. The EPAO and ABs must work collaboratively to manage the delivery of the EPA. This is to ensure the awarding of the MQ and the apprenticeship are together. The EPA plan will define the roles and responsibilities for each organisation.
There are various forms of EPA integration. These are based on:
See below for the types of EPA integration:
Exceptional circumstances where qualification integration may not be possible are:
The qualification must be redesigned before qualification integration where:
Gateway is where the employer believes the apprentice is occupationally competent. The employer may take advice from the training provider. The apprentice's occupational competence is then tested by the EPA.
The integrated assessment method must be conducted post-gateway along with the non-integrated assessment methods. The integrated assessment method must be delivered after the other EPA assessment methods have been attempted. This ordering of assessment methods ensures that the MQ and apprenticeship are awarded together. The integrated assessment method will contribute to:
This means that the MQ can only be awarded post-gateway.
All MQs in an apprenticeship must use the same subset of KSBs for integration. This is to ensure fairness and consistency across multiple mandated qualifications. Where the MQ has mandated and optional units, the EPA must detail the required unit that maps to the subset of KSBs. The trailblazer should work with IfATE and ABs to identify an appropriate subset of KSBs. All MQs in an apprenticeship must use the same assessment method for integration.
KSBs will only be assessed once to avoid over-assessment. The subset of KSBs must be of a suitable size for the integrated assessment method. Where the MQ has optional units, the selected units must align to the occupation.
When an apprenticeship uses a core and options approach, the subset of KSBs must be either:
This is to ensure fairness and consistency across the apprenticeship and MQs. All MQs in a core and options apprenticeship must use the same assessment method for integration. Where the MQ is not aligned to all the options, we will work with trailblazers to consider the possibility of integrating the MQ.
Integrated assessment methods must uphold the principles of independent assessment which underpin EPA. The EPA plan must detail the integrated assessment method. This is to promote consistency, fairness and validity of assessment. In relation to integrated assessment methods, training providers must not make adaptations to:
This does not apply to:
A suitably qualified person must administer all aspects of the integrated assessment method. This person must also be independent of the apprentice. This means that they must not:
Where this is not possible, by exception, a person who has delivered the assessed content may administer the assessment. This is providing they are not the sole administrator.
Someone independent must mark or grade all aspects of the integrated assessment method. This is to ensure marking judgements are fair and accurate, and to uphold the principles of the EPA. This person must not have an actual or potential conflict of interest relating to the EPA of an apprentice (including by way of moderation). The person making the marking judgement must not be employed by:
This means that they must be marked by either:
In rare circumstances, training provider staff may mark the integrated assessment method. This will only be to mark tests where there is a right or wrong answer, for example, multiple-choice tests. We will need to be assured that strict arrangements are in place for:
This is to ensure the validity of these assessment judgements.
The EPAO must make the decision of whether an apprentice has passed their EPA. The EPAO must also determine what the apprentice's final grade should be. This is to:
Apprenticeships must have at least one grade above a pass. A pass must represent full occupational competence in the occupation. Higher grades represent exceptional performance in the occupation. This will be achieved by having at least one of the non-integrated assessment methods graded at least one level above a pass.
Integrated assessment methods must be marked by either:
The outcome of the integrated assessment method will be capped at a pass for the apprenticeship. This is to ensure compatibility:
Awarding bodies must make clear in their marking criteria which grade boundary for the integrated assessment method represents a pass grade for the EPA. This pass grade must reflect occupational competence in the KSBs.
The outcome of the integrated assessment method has two purposes:
This would allow an integrated MQ to continue to operate with grading models that are different to the EPA. This means that the qualification could award grades above a pass.
The decision of whether an apprentice has passed their EPA and what their final grade should be, must be made by the EPAO.
Qualifications will only be considered for integration where the re-sit or re-take opportunities for the integrated assessment method fall within the typical EPA period timeframe. This ensures that apprentices are not disadvantaged by fixed assessment window opportunities.
EQA for the apprenticeship will be the responsibility of the EQA organisation.
The cost of the integrated mandatory qualification will be funded according to the apprenticeship funding rules. The integration of mandatory qualifications will not impact the current DfE mechanisms. These are the mechanisms which manage payments for apprenticeship training and assessment. The employer and provider must negotiate and agree a price for the EPA with the EPAO. This price must include the costs for integrated MQs. The employer must pay any difference between the band maximum and the total negotiated price.
Published 5 Sep 2023
Last updated 5 Sep 2023