End-point assessment (EPA) is fundamental to recent reforms of apprenticeships. It provides a complete, independent assessment that shows an apprentice is occupationally competent. Assessment must be high-quality. it must also provide a relevant and reliable test of occupation, and have credibility with stakeholders.
We have a statutory responsibility to ensure that evaluations are made on the quality of these EPAs. We do this via our external quality assurance (EQA) regime. The Institute, Ofqual and professional and employer-led bodies have delivered EQA to date. All these organisations deliver EQA to a framework which we published last summer.
This year, we ran a consultation on a proposal to simplify and strengthen the EQA system. It proposed moving from a system where many organisations deliver EQA, to one where two organisations deliver EQA. These would be Ofqual or, for integrated higher and degree apprenticeships, the Office for Students (OfS).
We received over 200 consultation responses from a range of different stakeholders.
Most respondents recognised the benefits of the proposed system and, supported this as the way forwards for EQA. We are thus proceeding with the proposal outlined in the consultation. We believe this will lead to a stronger system for quality assuring EPA.
We want to maintain and strengthen, beneficial aspects of the current EQA system. This includes the employer voice, which is central to ensuring that apprenticeships and EPA are relevant and credible with employers. We will create a directory of employer organisations. From this, Ofqual and the OfS can draw expertise in undertaking EQA to support this. We will create a new directory of professional and employer-led bodies from which Ofqual and the OfS will draw current sector expertise when undertaking EQA.
In year one, which started in August 2020, we began to transfer standards where we are the current EQA provider.
As part of our commitment to take a flexible and pragmatic approach to planning, we are extending the timeline for year one due to the unprecedented challenges posed by Covid-19.
EPAOs have until 1 July to make formal applications for recognition from Ofqual. They will then have until 16 December to complete the recognition process. EPAOs that do not apply by 1 July or achieve Ofqual recognition by 16 December will be removed from the register of EPAOs. They will be welcome to reapply for Ofqual recognition and the ESFA register at a later date.
Standards will continue to transfer to Ofqual when all EPAOs are recognised.
In year two we will start the transfer of standards covered by other EQA providers to Ofqual. We will communicate with the relevant EPAOs and EQA providers as we progress with the implementation.