Explanation of this guidance 

This guidance is mainly for End-point assessment organisations (EPAOs) and External quality assurance providers (EQAPs).  

It defines the principles and parameters for End-point assessment organisations (EPAOs) to adhere to and External quality assurance providers (EQAPs) to monitor, when first considering and then applying each specific flexibility to EPA delivery. 

It only applies to those end-point assessment plans published before 1 April 2022. End-point assessment plans published on or after 1 April 2022 should have these flexibilities considered during their development and be built into the published version where applicable. 


Flexibilities were introduced as options to support the delivery of apprenticeship end-point assessments through Covid-19.  

There were ten different types of flexibility made available to use across all apprenticeships. Some of which required prior approval from the external quality assurance provider (EQAP) on a case-by-case basis to ensure validity and comparability.  

Flexibilities are not about altering the intended EPA outcomes but about helping ensure that there is fair opportunity to achieve them. 

The Institute has engaged extensively with the sector to listen to everyone’s views on what impact the flexibilities have had. This took the shape of a far-reaching survey, commissioned research targeting apprentices and employers, and speaking to end point assessment organisations (EPAOs), training providers, trailblazer groups and representative bodies. This engagement, along with considering other relevant factors (including the need to ensure value for money and quality of apprenticeship training), has informed our decisions on which flexibilities to retain. 

Seven of the ten flexibilities will be retained as options to use beyond 1 April 2022. These are: 

  1. Observations taking place in simulated environments
  2. Remote delivery of assessment (including invigilation)  
  3. Pauses being allowed between assessment methods during end-point assessment period 
  4. Assessments taking place outside of usual venues 
  5. Delivery of assessment methods in any order (when a specified order is in the assessment plan)
  6. Exams/tests being online instead of on paper (where originally specified as paper-based only)
  7. Gateway sign off being done remotely (were originally specified as having to be face to face)

Three of the ten flexibilities will be switched off on 31 March 2022. These are listed below along with the reason why: 

  1. Changes being made to who sits on the EPA interview/discussion panel (when someone in addition to the independent assessor is specified)
  • during the Covid-19 period, it wasn’t always possible to have an employer sit on a panel as many were furloughed or busy elsewhere. As the economy returns to normal, the original assessment plan can now be delivered, helping to protect quality for apprentices, maintain validity and improve learning for future apprentices. 
  1. Allowing other suitable evidence of achievements being used in replacement of functional skills qualifications at gateway (other mandated qualifications are covered under temporary discretions)
  • this is no longer needed because the mandated qualifications should become available and achievable as restrictions are relaxed and training providers reopen. 
  1. Extension to the length of the end-point assessment period (where specified)
  • because it disadvantages apprentices to have a long wait for their end-point assessment (EPA)  after passing through gateway.  

Timing guidance for the three flexibilities being withdrawn

The cut-off point for those flexibilities which are being withdrawn is the date at which the actual assessment occurs, not the date of gateway. For example, apprentices that progress through gateway prior to or on 31 March 2022 but have their end-point assessment planned after 1 April 2022 will not be able to use the three flexibilities being withdrawn. 

Any end-point assessments that begin prior to or on 31 March 2022 but are completed after 1 April 2022 can continue to make use of the flexibilities being withdrawn.  

Apprentices that complete their end-point assessment before 31 March 2022, using a flexibility that is being withdrawn, but who require a resit/retake after 1 April 2022, are permitted to continue to use the withdrawn flexibility for their resit/retake. 

Apprentices that are due to complete their end-point assessment before 31 March 2022 using the flexibility but, due to extenuating circumstances, are unable to do so prior to the flexibility being withdrawn should be given the opportunity to continue to be assessed using the flexibility, if that is still appropriate. The EPAO must keep clear records in these cases. 

For those flexibilities which are retained the general principles and specific parameters around their use are defined in this guidance. This is to make sure quality, value for money and the needs of employers and apprentices are taken into account when making judgements of occupational competence. 

General principles 

Where possible, apprentices should continue with scheduled EPAs, that are in line with requirements set out in the assessment plan.  

Where an EPA was published prior to 1 April 2022, EPAOs may use one or more of the seven retained flexibilities set out above, in accordance with the parameters detailed below, to facilitate the delivery of end-point assessment.  

In order to use the following three flexibilities the EPAO must seek and gain permission from the Institute and/or EQAP prior to adopting them, full details of these permissions are explained within the flexibility parameters below: 

  • 1. observations taking place in simulated environments 
  • 2. remote delivery of observation or practical assessment 
  • 4. project specified to be completed under controlled conditions taking place outside of usual venues 

This is to protect quality where the EPAOs proposed application of the flexibility needs further consideration as to whether it will maintain the validity of the assessment method for that specific apprenticeship and assessment method.   

It should be noted that this guidance does not change the expected assessment and grading outcomes included in the published assessment plan. Flexibilities are about helping ensure that there is a fair opportunity to achieve them in an efficient and effective manner. 

If an EPAO requires clarification on flexibilities, (including confirmation that their assessments correctly apply the flexibility) they should contact their EQAP in the first instance. 

For all retained flexibilities 

EPAOs should first communicate their intended use of any flexibility and the rationale for doing so with the employer and apprentice. This will test the employer and apprentice view on the flexibility and help identify any impact on EPA cost and wider funding implications in advance. 

The EPAO and employer should consider, and mitigate against, any potential adverse impacts of the flexibility on other stakeholders within any assessment environment under their control (for example they should consider whether the use of video technology or a change of venue could compromise client or patient confidentiality and take appropriate steps to avoid this). 

The need for flexibilities should be considered at the earliest possible opportunity to allow adequate time for any additional preparation required by the flexibility (for example new technology and training to use it).  

Where responsibility for EQA is transferred from one EQAP to another we expect the new EQAP to honour any flexibility in place previously agreed by the Institute or former EQAP.  

The Institute reserves the right to adjust the parameters of or withdraw any of these flexibilities in their entirety, subject to providing all those potentially affected with a reasonable notice period. The Institute may need to do this if it is apparent that the flexibilities are no longer required, relevant, or fit for purpose. We will make this decision having balanced all relevant factors, including the needs of employers and apprentices, the need to ensure the quality of apprenticeship training and assessment, and value for money. 

Flexibility parameters

For more information

If you have any queries about this guidance please email enquiries.ifa@education.gov.uk. To help us identify and prioritise your query please use the following title in the subject box: EPA_flexibilities [your Organisation name]

If an EPAO requires clarification on flexibilities, (including confirmation that their assessments correctly apply the flexibility) they should contact their EQAP in the first instance.