By the time that standards are transferred to Ofqual, all organisations wishing to deliver end-point assessment (EPA) will need to be recognised by Ofqual. Those who are not yet regulated will need to apply for Ofqual recognition. Those who are already recognised will need to agree their expanded scope of regulated end-point assessments. This excludes integrated degree apprenticeships.

Until end-point assessment organisations (EPAOs) transition to Ofqual, they should continue to work with their current external quality assurance provider(s), respond to their requests and continue to meet the relevant payments for external quality assurance (EQA). EPAOs should also continue to comply with the conditions of the RoEPAO.

If Ofqual is the current EQA provider, EPAOs will need to apply for and achieve Ofqual recognition before their application to the RoEPAO can be approved. The list of standards that Ofqual is the current EQA provider can be found on GOV.UK

The remaining standards will transition to Ofqual as follows:

  • by 30 December 2021 all standards where the Institute is the EQA provider
  • by summer 2022 all standards where the EQA is currently provided by other external bodies will move to Ofqual

Between January and December 2021, there will be a single date each month on which standards will transfer to Ofqual. These are:

  • 28 January 
  • 25 February
  • 25 March 
  • 29 April 
  • 27 May 
  • 24 June 
  • 29 July 
  • 26 August 
  • 30 September
  • 28 October
  • 25 November

Between July and December 2021, standards will transfer as soon as all EPAOs are recognised.

Ofqual and the ESFA have communicated with all EPAOs currently on the RoEPAO delivering standards due to transfer in Year one. 

Where there is only one EPAO delivering EPA for a standard – as per the listing on the RoEPAO, then that standard will transfer to Ofqual soon after that EPAO has secured Ofqual recognition.

Where there is more than one EPAO delivering EPA for a standard, that standard will transfer to Ofqual either when all applicants have achieved Ofqual recognition, or on 31 December  2021, whichever is sooner.

You can begin preparing for recognition now. You can read the information on Ofqual’s website, or email: strategic.relationships@ofqual.gov.uk.

There are many opportunities to hear more about EQA Transition. Please find a list below, which is updated on a regular basis:

  • ESFA EPAO Forum – a regular event, to which all EPAOs on the RoEPAO receive invites to join

You can also access recordings from previous events and webinars

Two-part series explaining the recognition panel meeting:

Case study 

  • A case study article, drawing on the experiences of 4 EPAOs who have been successful in gaining recognition

1. For EPAOs not looking to be recognised by Ofqual post-transition

If you no longer want to deliver some EPAs following the transfer of standards to Ofqual or the Office for Students (OfS), you do not need to apply for Ofqual recognition. You can continue to deliver the EPA until the date of transition and the arrangements with your current EQA provider will continue.

Once the standard transfers to Ofqual you will no longer be able to deliver that EPA and will be removed from the RoEPAO for those standards. This means that employers will no longer be able to select you as the EPAO for that standard.

ESFA has asked EPAOs to indicate their intent, or otherwise, to apply for Ofqual recognition by completing this survey. Details of the withdrawal requirements are in ESFA’s conditions of acceptance. EPAOs should notify the ESFA of their intention to withdraw from the RoEPAO by emailing helpdesk@manage-apprenticeships.service.gov.uk

2. For organisations currently applying to become an EPAO

Organisations applying to the RoEPAO to assess standards in the first year of transition will need to seek recognition by Ofqual and have this in place before their application to the RoEPAO can be approved.

This applies to organisations not currently on the register and those that have not yet applied.

If you have any questions, please email Ofqual at strategic.relationships@ofqual.gov.uk

ESFA registration process and Ofqual recognition process

ESFA and Ofqual are looking at ways to align the registration processes to go on to the ESFA’s register of EPAOs and  Ofqual’s recognition process. ESFA and Ofqual are conscious of the need to minimise burden in the system and the intention is to move to a single registration process as soon as possible. Once this is in place, a potential EPAO, or an existing EPAO that wants to deliver additional standards, will submit their evidence through a single process and that evidence will be shared with both ESFA and Ofqual for a decision.

Where organisations are already on the RoEPAO and need to become recognised by Ofqual, or where an existing regulated awarding organisation seeks to become an EPAO, ESFA and Ofqual will share information and intelligence, to inform decision-making.

3. Ofqual recognition

Ofqual’s recognition criteria are the same for all organisations; whether they are applying to deliver EPAs or other types of qualifications. Applications are reviewed according to the size and scale of delivery of the applicant. EPAOs will need to demonstrate that they meet the requirements set out in Ofqual’s Criteria for Recognition.

If an EPAO is not currently recognised by Ofqual it will need to complete a full application for recognition and provide evidence which demonstrates that the organisation is financially sustainable and has the processes, capacity and capability to design and deliver valid EPAs. When reviewing and deciding on an application for recognition Ofqual will consider contextual information such as the specialism and scale of the EPAO. 

The application for Ofqual recognition should include all the standards that the EPAO delivers, or plans to deliver, that is in year one of the transition, which are those where the Institute is the current EQA provider.

EPAOs that are already on the RoEPAO for any standards that are in year one of the transition have already been contacted by ESFA or Ofqual advising them to apply for recognition. At this stage, EPAOs should not apply for Ofqual recognition for any standards that are in year two of the transition, which is those that have other external EQA providers.

EQA reports

Ofqual’s recognition process requires EPAOs to provide evidence that they can meet the Criteria for Recognition and this will be the basis of the review of recognition applications. Ofqual will also do due diligence checks from existing sources on EPAOs as part of the review.

As part of the transition process Ofqual will work with the Institute and other EQA providers to understand EQA reports to date. This information will help inform Ofqual’s understanding of EPAOs, their level of risk and potential EQA activities to undertake following recognition.

Length of time to complete

The aim is for Ofqual to complete a review and respond to applications received within 12 weeks. However, Ofqual does not provide an average length of time to complete the recognition as every application and EPAO is different.  The total length of time to achieve recognition will depend on the quality of the application received and whether the application needs to be returned at any stage. Ofqual has increased resources to review applications in response to the changes announced.

Newly approved EPAOs

If an EPAO has not yet carried out an EPA for a standard this does not prevent them from applying for Ofqual recognition. Where an EPAO does not expect apprentices to complete their EPA for some time due to the length of the apprenticeship programme they can still apply for Ofqual recognition as normal. When applying for recognition Ofqual expects EPAOs to be able to show how they will develop and deliver the EPAs to those apprentices even where they are not yet doing so.

Additional support

In the consultation response, Ofqual said it would engage, collectively and individually, with EPAOs to provide them with guidance as they proceed with their recognition applications. Taking on board feedback from respondents, Ofqual is building a range of additional information, resources and briefings to clarify the process and requirements of applying for recognition. To deepen the understanding of what they do and how a regulated approach to EQA will operate in line with the Institute’s EQA Framework. Further detail of the developing communications and engagement, can be found in Annex 4 of the EQA consultation response.

Ofqual has already published a range of additional resources to support EPAOs applying for recognition, including an EPAO recognition briefing and webinars with existing EPAOs Autoexel and EMPI on their experience of recognition. Ofqual will continue to provide additional resources to support EPAOs with the process.

Ofqual is aware that each EPAO is different. Ofqual offers support throughout the recognition process to help EPAOs understand what it means to be regulated and how to demonstrate that they meet the requirements. This includes an initial meeting with Ofqual to discuss recognition and a named point of contact for support and guidance as your EPAO completes the application.

4. Expanding scope of recognition

Once an organisation is recognised by Ofqual there is no need to apply for recognition again as an EPAO.  

Instead, as a recognised awarding organisation EPAOs will need to apply to expand their current scope of recognition to include each EPA that they want to deliver. When applying to expand the scope of recognition Ofqual requests the following information:

  • details of how the EPA is similar to, or different from the EPAs the EPAO is currently approved to deliver, for example, the route, level and assessment methods
  • how the EPAO will ensure it has the capacity and capability (including people and finances) to develop, deliver and award the additional EPAs
  • the number of anticipated and confirmed registrations or entries on to the EPAs
  • an indication of how advanced each EPA is in its development

EPAOs will only need to make a new application for recognition where the organisation that is delivering EPAs is a separate legal entity to the one that has Ofqual recognition, for example, a different company set up specifically for this purpose. Ofqual recognises the legal entity and therefore if the organisation is set up separately, they will require their own recognition. If this is the case Ofqual will be interested in understanding the governance arrangements and any potential or actual conflicts of interests that may occur for the existing awarding organisation and EPAO.

If you have a specific concern about this then please get in touch with Ofqual and include any relevant details.

5. Ofqual's approach to EQA

Ofqual’s expertise is in assessments and their regulation. Ofqual regulates 160 awarding organisations and over 14,000 vocational and technical qualifications and EPAs.

Ofqual will bring this assessment expertise to the external quality assurance of EPAs and will use the Institute’s Employer Directory for the technical and subject expertise required for its EQA activities.

Employer directory

Ofqual welcomes the opportunity to work in partnership with employers and professional bodies through the Institute’s employer directory. The employer directory will provide opportunities, with those who represent their sectors, to access their expertise and insights of EPA delivery. Ofqual will work with those who are on the employer directory so that their EQA is informed by appropriate, relevant professional and technical expertise, and Ofqual will look to them to convey the voices and views of employers in their sector or profession.

There is a range of ways that Ofqual may work with employers or professional bodies and their members. These may include the following:

  • advice during the assessment plan review stage (to ensure the standard meets regulatory obligations and retains focus on occupational competence)
  • scrutiny of the appropriateness and level of demand for developed EPA materials as part of readiness checks
  • insight and intelligence to support prioritisation and targeting of EQA activities
  • operational input to confirm that quality assessment continues to deliver occupational competence
  • continuous feedback and improvement to processes
  • support for professional/employer engagement activities
  • recruitment of occupational experts, to complement assessment expertise

Additionally, Ofqual is establishing a field team that will look at how assessments are working in practice at the point of delivery. They will undertake on-site monitoring of EPAs, to gather intelligence from employers and apprentices and to strengthen the evidence base for risk-based, targeted interventions.

6. Information on charges

  • when a standard transfers from the Institute to Ofqual the EPAO will no longer be liable for a charge on certificates with an achievement date after the transfer date
  • bills are sent out a month in arrears so the EPAO may receive a bill after the transfer date.
  • if an EPAO requests a certificate in the future with an achievement date before transitioning to Ofqual, they could be sent a bill a month later
  • the Institute will work with the EPAOs on standards that are out of scope for the transition to Ofqual or OfS, and billing arrangements for those standards will be communicated at that time

7. How data will be managed

As standards transition over to Ofqual, EQA providers will remove all of the EQA related data they hold on their systems. The Institute will retain any information that has been submitted as part of the EQA activity undertaken and share this information with Ofqual or the Office for Students (OfS), to ensure that external quality assurance is maintained and end-point assessments continue to be fair, robust and consistent.

To also ensure consistency in delivery EQA providers will hold EPAO related information until all of the standards the organisation delivers transfers over to Ofqual.

Apply to have your qualifications regulated- information from Ofqual about applying for recognition and links to the recognition gateway.

End-Point Assessment Organisation recognition briefing guidance for organisations considering applying for Ofqual recognition to deliver apprenticeship end-point assessments.

Ofqual Apprenticeship End-Point Assessment collection

Findings from Ofqual technical evaluation of EPA materials