How does an end-point assessment work?
Key points to note include:
- an apprentice can’t complete and achieve their apprenticeship without passing the end-point assessment
- the registered assessment organisation and the assessor must be independent of and separate from the training provider and the employer
- the EPA organisation must be approved on the ESFA register of apprenticeship assessment organisations
- EPA is separate to any qualifications or other assessment an apprentice may undertake during training.
While the majority of assessments will be graded, it’s important to note that some exemptions may apply, subject to agreement being given during the approval process. A grading system has many advantages for employers, enabling them to distinguish between pass, merit and distinction candidates whilst also motivating learners to aim high.
What is end-point assessment?
End-point assessment (EPA) signifies one of the biggest apprenticeship reforms in recent times, and will constitute a large part of the new Trailblazer approach. An EPA is a collection of assessments that offers confirmation of knowledge, skills and behaviours (known as KSBs) for a particular role. It takes place once the apprenticeship training has been completed, and the apprentice is deemed ready for EPA. The EPA must be achieved before an apprenticeship certificate can be issued.
This approach stems from the 2013 government-commissioned Richard Review into apprenticeships, which called for an end to continuous assessment – in favour of an external assessment that more accurately reflected a learner’s capabilities and readiness for a particular role.
What’s more, the independent nature of the assessment is designed to ensure that skills are transferable across different organisations and respected industry-wide.
C&G guidance video.
The manner of conducting end-point assessments is developed and outlined by each Trailblazer group once the standard has been approved. In devising chosen criteria, employers decide how to test for occupational competence within their specific industry – a key milestone for apprenticeships.
The EPA doesn’t have to cover every aspect of the standard; instead, it’s designed to be holistic – evaluating the Knowledge Skills Behaviours (KSBs) that should be met over the duration of the apprenticeship.
While Trailblazer groups are free to select a range of methods – such as examinations, interviews, observations at work and professional assignments– the assessment plan must achieve four things:
- Explain what will be assessed – i.e. the skills, knowledge and behaviours listed within the standard.
- Explain how the apprentice will be assessed, outlining the proposed methods.
- Indicate who’ll carry out the assessment and who’ll make the final decision on competency and grading.
- Propose external quality assurance measures – to ensure the assessment is reliable and consistent across different locations, assessment organisations and apprentices.
The structure of an EPA is designed to ensure that those making a decision on the competency of an apprentice are totally impartial. This means that an assessment must either be conducted by an independent third party, or in a way that ensures no party involved in the management or training of the apprentice can make the sole decision on competence and passing the EPA – via a panel of experts, for example.
What this means for training providers and employers
Employers will need to decide if they want their training provider to source/recommend an EPAO or if they want to choose one themselves.
Training providers will need to work with an EPAO to make sure their delivery style and content matches what’s expected of learners at EPA stage.
If the delivery is in-house, an independent EPAO will need to be appointed to assess.
Employers and training providers will both need to consider the cost of EPA to make sure that the money drawn down is sufficient for both training and assessment.
Both training providers and employers will need to make sure their learners are prepared for EPA to maximise the opportunity for the learner to achieve their apprenticeship.