From education to employment

#Apprenticeship EPA gateway more than just a tick box exercise

Jacqui Molkenthin, JEML Consulting

I have heard organisations and people saying that the gateway to end-point assessment (EPA) has become a tick box exercise.

I have also heard others talking about setting up a whole new industry about mini-end-point-assessment or pre-end-point-assessment-assessment at the gateway to ensure readiness for EPA.

These are two extremes, but what is clear, is that there are wide ranging approaches, and understanding, of the gateway to EPA assessment and what it means.

So, what is the Gateway?

The gateway is the entry point to EPA. It is the point at which the apprentice has completed their learning, met the requirements of the standard, and that they, alongside their employer and training provider agree that they are ready to enter their EPA.

The requirements of the gateway are unique to each apprenticeship, and are detailed in the apprenticeship assessment plan.

All assessment plans can be accessed via an easy to use search function on the on the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education website.

However, it is not always easy to locate the gateway requirements within the assessment plan, as they do not all have a dedicated section entitled “gateway requirements”.

The Conditions for EPA organisations (para 44) states that the End-point Assessment Organisation (EpAO) must ensure the apprentice has passed the gateway review.

However, what this does NOT mean is that it is the role of the EpAO to carry out the gateway review and confirm apprentice readiness.

It is the role of the employer to conduct the gateway review, supported by the provider, who in turn will have a continuing duty of care for the apprentice as they undertake EPA.

As part of the process of passing the gateway review, the employer must agree that the apprentice:

  1. is in their view competent in the role and therefore ready to do the endpoint assessment
  2. has achieved mandatory on-programme qualifications (where applicable)
  3. has achieved other specific requirements where these are listed in the assessment plan, such as completing a logbook or service record

Detailed information about DEVELOPING AN END-POINT ASSESSMENT PLAN is provided by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

There are elements of gateway review that are simple yes/no checks, but there are also other elements where close work between employer, training provider and apprentice are essential to ensure an apprentice is ready to enter EPA, and in fact some apprenticeship assessment plans also require the gateway to be the time to submit apprentice portfolio, and agree certain EPA activities, such as a project (refer to the last section in this article).

To confirm readiness, EpAOs use a range of tools.

For example, some may provide the employer with a gateway declaration to complete, some may require a letter from the employer to confirm readiness, and some may use an on-line portal system for electronic declarations.

Sometimes the approach is rigid because the assessment plan has mandated the type of gateway declaration / paperwork required.

The key point to note here, is that the employer and provider should engage with the employer selected EpAO as early as possible, so that they know what to expect and what is required.

Don’t forget that although the employer and provider should engage with the EpAO early, the EpAO itself cannot get involved in training design / delivery or in confirming the apprentice readiness.

It is important not to go over the top, and to seek guidance from the EpAO. The gateway is not about saying that the apprentice is guaranteed to pass, or conversely, about preventing them from entering EPA until you can guarantee a pass.

The underlying principle behind the gateway is to check and ensure that the apprentice has been able to learn all the knowledge, skills and behaviours, has achieved any mandatory qualifications, has built up a portfolio of evidence, and been fully informed on what to expect during EPA.

It may sound silly, but don’t forget to involve the apprentice in this process, it is not just an arbitrary decision by the employer or provider about readiness.

It is reasonable to expect the EpAO to provide guidance documents in support of EPA.

This could cover a whole range of things such as: how to submit evidence, the duration of assessments, assessor/apprentice ratios, facility requirements for observations, assessment delivery (face to face, skype etc), approach to re-sits and re-takes, rights to appeal, and so on.

So, what are the Gateway checks?

As mentioned, there are some that can be viewed as “tick box” and others that will require more involvement across employer, provider and apprentice.

The “tick box” checks

i. Duration

Have they met the minimum duration as published in the Standard? Some standards say ‘expected’ or ‘typical’ or ‘anticipated’ duration rather than ‘minimum’. If this is the case then you must remember that the ESFA Funding Rules require training to be a minimum of 12 months, and that the EPA can only be taken after the minimum duration has been met.

ii. Maths and English

All apprentices will have to have completed maths and English at the appropriate level (level 2 for apprenticeship at level 3 and above, level 1 for apprenticeships at level 2.

But don’t forget, for apprenticeships at level 2, the apprentice must work towards maths and English level 2 and take the assessment)

iii. Mandated qualifications

Some apprenticeship standards mandate qualifications; you will need to be able to provide the certificate at gateway. There may be some exceptions whereby the certificate is required at the mid-way point of an apprenticeship, or at the end of the apprenticeship rather than gateway, so please check the assessment plan.

The more detailed checks

Checking the apprentice has learnt the knowledge, skills and behaviours – this is more than just a case of the apprentice finishing their training.

Standards are different to Frameworks, they are not just built up on a range of qualifications (although a few do contain mandatory qualifications within them), they are based on apprentice skills and behaviours, as well as their underpinning knowledge.

This is why the employer’s role is so important both in terms of involvement in the apprenticeship delivery, and in the determination of apprentice readiness.

Examples of methods to determine readiness include:

  1. Mapping – The training provider and employer will have mapped their training plan and scheme of work to the Apprenticeship Standard. This should be used, alongside evidence of the apprentice’s work (for example, through their portfolio) to determine readiness.
  2. Reviews – The employer and provider will have carried out regular reviews with the apprentice, and the apprentice themselves will have collected peer reviews and feedback, and carried out reflective learning during their apprenticeship. These will help to determine readiness, particularly in relation to skills and behaviours
  3. Apprentice – Some employers may ask the apprentice to present their own evidence as to why they feel they are ready for EPA.
  4. Mocks – Some may choose to carry out mock assessments, such as mock multiple-choice tests. Please be aware that is not mandatory for an EpAO to provide mock assessment materials, many are beginning to develop and provide mock assessment materials as their EPA service develops

Additional Activities at gateway

As mentioned earlier, some apprenticeship assessment plans require the gateway to be the time to agree certain EPA activities, such as a project, or the submission of specific apprentice work.

This means that there will have to be a conversation and/or meeting between the employer and EpAO to agree those activities.

For example:

  1. in the Assessor/Coach apprenticeship, the showcase must be submitted at gateway;
  2. in the Learning and Development Practitioner apprenticeship, the employer should send the work-based project plan within one week of gateway to the EPAO for approval
  3. in the Policy Officer apprenticeship, the portfolio must be submitted to the EpAO at gateway to enable them to decide on the questions to be asked during the professional discussion.

In summary, communication is key to making the gateway as smooth and effective as possible.

The employer, provider and EpAO should engage as early as possible; and the employer, provider and apprentice should work together to continually review the apprentice progress against the requirements (knowledge skills, and behaviours) of the Standard.

And on a final note, make sure the required evidence is collated and can be easily accessed in a secure manner by the EpAO (you’ll need to ensure you have the right data sharing and security measures/protocols in place).

Jacqui Molkenthin, JEML Consulting

Related Articles