FISSS, a leading organisation in the Apprenticeship and Skills landscape, and a strategic partner of the University Vocational and Awards Council (UVAC), is delighted to see the recent publication by the Office for Students (OfS) on the EQA (External Quality Assurance) of End-Point Assessment (EPA) for integrated higher and degree apprenticeships, which was recently announced.
FISSS welcome the guidance published on Thursday 12th October, which aims to ensure that EQA will provide a judgement about whether EPA is effective, valid and reliable, ensuring consistency across all apprenticeship standards and between different Universities. The guidance builds on the principles and work undertaken by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) during its tenure as External Quality Assurance agency for End Point Assessment activity.
EPA is the independent test that verifies an apprentice’s occupational competence at the end of their apprenticeship. The OfS, as the regulator for higher education in England is responsible for the external quality assessment of End Point Assessment (EPA) and in safeguarding and ensuring the integrity of apprenticeship assessments and standards in alignment to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s (IfATE) EQA Framework and Manual.
The recently published guidance following the departure of the QAA as the EQA body at the end of March, retains the Readiness and Monitoring Checks introduced by the QAA, and provides information as to how universities and providers should prepare for these interventions. The OfS has suggested that it will take a risk-based approach to the EQA role, which means that a proportional engagement with providers will be followed and a process whereby not all Apprenticeship Standards will be scrutinised if providers retain positive Readiness and Monitoring Check outcomes.
FISSS and ACE360 welcome the clarity of the Guidance following feedback of providers through facilitation forums scoped and run in unison between FISSS and UVAC bringing together regulators and providers across the complex apprenticeship landscape. FISSS and ACE360 will continue, as a strategic partner of UVAC, to fully support providers in their preparation for EPA readiness and monitoring checks and will continue to align their systems and services to create work-flow processes, provide evidence stores and surface data and outcomes for individuals and cohorts within and across institutions to highlight trends and enable benchmarking which will inform the assurance process. It is anticipated that this valuable information will be helpful for both provider and regulator in assessing and assuring consistency across apprenticeship delivery. It builds upon 6 years of EPA experience within the FE and private training provider sector working closely with IfATE and significant numbers of End Point Assessment Organisations (EPAO’s).
As an organisation whose core role is to facilitate and help to shape the skills agenda within the UK, FISSS are committed to working closely with stakeholders from across the Apprenticeship landscape to support and ensure the highest quality provision possible through full sector engagement. We aim to be at the heart of the skills conversation taking a proactive stance to support all stakeholders leading to the highest industry standards. The clarity from the OfS now provides a framework in which FISSS and ACE360 can positively respond through its alignment of products and services to support providers with immediate effect.
FISSS look forward to meeting providers at the November UVAC conference to discuss how they can support them in assuring that their quality assurance mechanisms meet the compliance needs of OfS as providers seek to streamline their administration, academic and assessment activities to support growth in apprenticeship provision.