End-point assessment (EPA) is fundamental to recent reforms of apprenticeships. It provides a complete, independent assessment that shows an apprentice is occupationally competent. This thereby secures the confidence of employers and provides the apprentice with reassurance. Assessment must be:

  • high-quality
  • provide a relevant and reliable test of occupation
  • have credibility with stakeholders

External Quality Assurance (EQA) is how we evaluate the quality of the EPA for each apprenticeship standard. It is a statutory duty laid upon IfATE. 

EQA make sure that end-point assessment organisations (EPAOs) all:

  • work to a high standard
  • that end-point assessments are fit-for-purpose
  • end-point assessments deliver the outcomes that employers intended

 Previously there was the option for EQA to be carried out by various EQA providers. This included:

  • employers
  • professional bodies
  • Ofqual
  • The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE)

During 2020 we consulted on simplifying the EQA system. Following that we transitioned to a different model of EQA. In the new model EPAOs are regulated by either Ofqual, OfS or a small number of Professional, Statutory, Regulatory Bodies (PSRB). These include:

  • the Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority (SRA)
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

Collectively, we refer to these organisations as EPA Regulators.

That transition had completed by the end of 2023. We are now in the process of revising our EQA Framework. This is to reflect the regulatory responsibilities of those organisations, alongside the statutory responsibilities of IfATE to make sure EQA is undertaken.


Employer directory

As an employer led organisation, we regularly engage with a wide range of employers. This is important to make sure we get a rounded picture. To retain the employer-led approach to EQA, we have built the employer directory bodies. This ensures Ofqual and OfS can be supported by input from professional and employer-led bodies. The Employer Directory is our primary vehicle for maintaining a portfolio of engaged employers. Thinking about them as a group helps us to:

  • be responsive to their need
  • makes sure we service their needs effectively and efficiently

There is a range of ways that employers or professional bodies and their members might support EQA, including:

  • advice during the assessment plan review stage (to make sure 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

IfATE's 2022 External Quality Assurance (EQA) annual report  (link) summarises the data and insights shared with us around how end point assessment (EPA) and EQA was delivered throughout 2022.


1. Who can carry out EQA?

Previously there was the option for EQA to be carried out by various EQA providers, including employers, professional bodies, Ofqual or the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE).

In February to May 2020, we consulted on simplifying the EQA system. Following the response to the consultation, we moved to a model where all EQA for an apprenticeship standard will be delivered by:

  • The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual)
  • The Office for Students (OfS) for integrated higher and degree apprenticeships

There are some exceptions to this, these apprenticeships are referred to as Out-of-Scope and come under the following criteria: 

  • there is a statutory regulator for that occupation, who wants to undertake their own EQA  
  • there is a professional body that controls entry into an occupation where they are also the only organisation that can be the EPAO
  • there are, or could be, national security implications
  • a statutory regulator’s assessment is the apprenticeship’s end-point assessment - this will apply to integrated, non-degree, apprenticeships

There may be other instances, and these will be considered on an individual basis.

All EQA will be carried out in line with our EQA framework.

IfATE will also continue to provide a temporary, free-of-charge, in-house advice, and quality assurance solution for a small number of apprenticeships that, for various reasons, are not able to be covered by one of the other listed organisations. This will ensure that EPA can continue, and that quality will be maintained.

To retain the employer-led approach to EQA, Ofqual and OfS will be supported by input from professional and employer-led bodies. Employers can nominate organisations for entry to the Directory of Professional and Employer-led Bodies to support EQA activity by emailing ifate.directory@education.gov.uk in the first instance.

You can view a register of the organisations approved to carry out EQA 


2. EQA Framework

The EQA Framework sets out how apprenticeship EPAs must be externally quality assured.

It sets out what good practice in EPA looks like, and what EQA providers should look out for to be confident this has happened. The resulting improved clarity to EPA and EQA providers will ensure consistency with how assessments are delivered across the country.


3. EQA Annual report

IfATE's 2022 External Quality Assurance (EQA) annual report is now available.

This summarises the data and insights shared with us around how end point assessment (EPA) and EQA was delivered throughout 2022.

The report reflects on:

  • how well the system is working and
  • areas for improvement
  • examples of good practice

IfATE announced its plans to move to a simplified EQA system back in 2020 and this transition is broadly complete. It means that the majority of EQA will be delivered by:

  • Ofqual or,
  • for integrated degree apprenticeships, the Office for Students (OfS)

Some valued external quality assurance organisations (EQAOs) will no longer be undertaking EQA as a result. The report acknowledges the excellent work that they have done in:

  • delivering EQA and
  • establishing the credibility of EPA

We hope many of them will continue to bring the employer voice alive through membership of our directory of professional and employer-led bodies.


Last updated 15 May 2024