An important aspect of the reform of apprenticeships is the end-point assessment (EPA).
The EPA is undertaken by an independent end-point assessment organisation (EPAO). EPAOs are responsible for designing, administering and marking assessments. Apprenticeship standards can have more than one registered EPAO – a small number have as many as 18. The ESFA publishes a Register of end-point assessment organisations (RoEPAO) on GOV.UK here.
It is important to ensure that apprentices are assessed consistently and fairly regardless of the EPAO chosen by their employer. EPAOs all have systems for controlling the quality of their assessments. These systems are known as Internal Quality Assurance (IQA). IQA involves ensuring that assessors are qualified and trained, that grading is applied consistently and that assessment instruments such as test questions or practical tasks are robust.
The External Quality Assurance (EQA) provider monitors the performance of different EPAOs, the effectiveness of the apprenticeship standard and assessment plan; checking it is reliable, rigorous and fit-for-purpose.
EQA ensures that EPAOs all work to a high standard and that an apprentice who has been assessed by one EPAO would get the same result regardless of the EPAO. EQA also ensures the apprenticeship standard is actually delivering the outcomes that are required.
The Institute as EQA provider
The Institute has two important roles in the provision of EQA. Firstly, the Institute will act as a provider of EQA, where necessary. It is one of four options that a trailblazer can choose to deliver EQA for a standard:
- an employer led model
- a professional body
- the Institute for Apprenticeships
The Institute has contracted a third party to undertake this work for 2017-18 and we announced on 2 August 2017 that Open Awards would be undertaking this work on our behalf. Pending the start of the contract with the third party, staff from the Institute have delivered an interim EQA service.
The Institute overseeing EQA
The Institute has a role overseeing EQA across all EQA providers to ensure quality, consistency and credibility. The Institute has produced guidance for these organisations on what EQA should cover. This is set out in Annex F of How to develop an apprenticeship standard: guide for trailblazers. Further support is being developed and we will review this periodically. This is to ensure that the EQA process remains fit-for-purpose and is providing us with the information we need.
The main stages of EQA
- The trailblazer chooses one of the four EQA options when designing the apprenticeship assessment plan. This is confirmed with the specific organisation they elect to use.
- If an employer-led group or professional body is selected, the Institute will contact the organisation. We will then ask for them to set out their EQA process using a process where they are asked a series of questions .
- When we are satisfied that the approach outlined provides the necessary assurances of rigour and comparability of assessment we will issue a letter recognising the body as the EQA provider for a particular standard (or standards).
- From that point the EQA provider will undertake a range of monitoring activity
- The EQA provider will usually report its findings to each EPAO for a specific standard. The EQA provider will decide how it will report, but we would expect the EQA provider to discuss any problems and any suggested improvements with the EPAO. Where an EPAO is found to have significant weaknesses or has failed to implement improvements, this could lead to the Institute instigating a formal review and could lead to:
- A request for formal requirements to improve the delivery of assessment
- Changes to:
- assessment plans
- assessment instruments
- Sanctions being imposed on the EPAO
- Reports made to the Secretary of State for Education, with recommendations which could include:
- withdrawal of the assessment organisation from the Register of Apprenticeship Assessment Organisations (RoEPAO)
- withdrawal of the standard and/or the assessment plan
- The EQA provider will also provide an annual report for each relevant standard. The report will cover the quality and consistency of assessment and the operation of the Standard and assessment plan
- The Institute will use these reports as a tool for enforcing accountability, and/or implementing continuous improvement. Reports will also highlight good practice and enable the EPAO to apply this to other areas, identifying opportunities for other improvements.
Ofqual's approach to providing EQA for apprenticeships can be found here. Trailblazers who choose Ofqual as their EQA provider should read the document so that they fully understand the process and any requirements.
What does it all mean?
There may be a range of actions that come out of EQA activity. It may be that the EQA provider is able to report that the delivery of assessment across a standard is robust, credible and consistent. Or, they may note areas for improvement and agree an action plan with the AAO. The Institute may instigate a formal review where there are serious concerns.
The Institute’s Quality Assurance Committee will review EQA reports from all EQA providers (including the Institute). This Committee is made up of Institute board members, independent assessment experts and senior Institute staff. It makes recommendations about what action (if any) should be taken.
EQA has an important role in ensuring that quality of apprenticeship assessments are maintained and improved. This is all part of building a world-class apprenticeship system that benefits employers, apprentices and the UK as a whole.
If you would like to be able to offer apprenticeships, current Apprenticeship standards are published on gov.uk along with their assessment plans and funding bands. For employers you can also use gov.uk to find apprenticeship training.