From education to employment

Awareness of and preparation for EPA: Top 10 hints and tips

Jacqui Molkenthin, JEML Consulting

On 22 September 2020 the results of a survey of apprentices was published by the @IfATechEd. Within that survey it was reported that “there are low levels of awareness of EPA content and low satisfaction with EPA preparation”.

Only 41% of respondents were satisfied that they understood what would be required of them in their EPA.

The survey recommends building on the accountability set out in the Funding Rules for training providers to ensure EPA preparation is delivered in partnership with employers and EPAOs, and to define and publish requirements for delivering adequate preparation for EPA, requiring all training providers to deliver dedicated EPA familiarisation training at the start of the apprenticeship, and also in the run-up to an apprentice’s EPA.

From my perspective a good quality provider automatically embeds EPA preparation into their curriculum offer and delivery, and a good quality End-point assessment organisation (EpAO) automatically provides information or support to help providers, employers and apprentices prepare for end-point assessment.

A provider has access to the standard and assessment plan to be able to plan and tailor their curriculum offer / model (I wrote an article on curriculum planning for standards last year), and an EpAO can provide support materials without compromising the independence of the end-point assessment.

In view of the survey findings, I thought it would be useful to share examples of things I do when working with EpAOs and their industry experts to design their support materials.

These support materials do not compromise the integrity of the assessment tools or delivery, they simply enable all parties (apprentices, employers, providers) to understand and prepare, and therefore to achieve the best possible end-point assessment experience.

The support materials are also important because the provider and employer retain a continuing duty of care for the apprentice as they undertake end-point assessment:

1. EpAO ‘sales pack’

The employer must select the EpAO, so why not have an EpAO ‘sales pack’ for employers about your EpAO service, this will not only help with marketing, but will also enable awareness raising as early on as possible. An employer’s role is as important as the provider, so it is worthwhile making sure they understand their roles and responsibilities, as well as receiving hints and tips, such as the role of line managers and mentors, and checklist of roles and responsibilities (some of the newer assessment plans already provide these details of roles and responsibilities).

2. Snap shot overviews

Produce 1 page, easily accessible (perhaps on your website), snap shot overviews of the EPA and its components, such as a timeline from registration through to certification or a flow chart the journey, alongside snap shots of each EPA activity (observation, VIVA, knowledge test, interview etc). Snap shot overviews provide an instant visual of key elements of EPA, such as required documents and when, location, duration, number of questions, how many assessors, face to face or online and so on. Don’t forget to take account of the latest IfATE Covid flexibilities on EPA delivery when summarising your EPA services.

3. Help sheets

Produce help sheets or information for providers on things such as such as your EpAO code for the ILR, prices and invoicing arrangements, booking arrangements and timeframes, tools and communication mechanisms for apprentice registration EPA scheduling and issuing results (including data sharing and protection). These could also be included in any provider / EpAO contracts / service level agreements.

4. Accessible policies

Make sure your policies are all readily accessible to apprentices, providers and employers. I know these may not technically be about the assessments themselves, but they are important because an apprentice and provider will want to understand what reasonable adjustments may be possible (and how they apply), whether they can resist, whether they have a right to appeal and so on. The ESFA has guidance on resits, and the IfATE has guidance on reasonable adjustments that you may find helpful.

5. Portfolio checklists

Produce portfolio / journey log / log book checklist – this can be produced by a provider and/or EpAO – it should be built around the knowledge, skills and behaviours of the standard and any associated learning outcomes in the assessment plan. Checklists, such as these, can be used by apprentices, their employer and provider to track progress and therefore understand when an apprentice is ready to enter end-point assessment.

6. Gateway checklists

Produce a very clear overview and checklist of what is required and gateway and how it must be submitted, this is particularly important if portfolios need to be submitted as they may be paper based or electronic, and stored on a variety of systems. And of course don’t forget the current flexibilities with regard to functional skills certification.

7. Templates

Build on the 1-page snapshots to provide more information on each EPA activity, such as the KSBs that will be assessed in each assessment, providing examples and/or explanations, and produce any necessary additional templates and guidance, such as project proposal and approval templates.

8. Mock papers

Produce mocks and/or practice materials that a provider can use in their EPA preparation workshops with apprentice. For example, if the assessment contains a test, produce a mock question paper or test scenario. If the assessment contains a project, detail what the project must cover, and provide an example project scope, and so on.

9. Technical specifications

Produce technical specifications for each end-point assessment activity. For example, if the assessment is online, specify the IT platform that will be used, any registrations or permissions required to access it, the timeframes for logging on, responsibilities for the provision of equipment, invigilation arrangements etc. If the assessment requires equipment / tools, make sure they are detailed, so that the assessment areas is appropriately prepared. If apprentice ID checks are required, make sure you have clearly specified what those are, when they are to be shown, and to whom. Don’t forget to take account of Covid, health and safety, and safeguarding in the specifications where applicable.

10. Process guides

Make sure your internal EPA staff have a clear process guide so they know what to do and when, and using what documents / templates / tools, including the communication between you as an EpAO and the employer, provider, apprentice and your assessors.

On a final note, effective EPA preparation can only work if there is early engagement between employer, provider and EpAO. Last minute selection of an EpAO is not in the interests of anyone, and is detrimental to the apprentice.

I hope this information is useful, there are many other things providers and EpAOs can do to ensure a positive EPA experience. But please remember, if an EpAO has only just been approved for the standard, they may not have all the tools and support materials in place as they have 9-12 months post approval on the ESFA register to be set up and ready to deliver.

In those scenarios the EpAO should be making it clear to the employer and provider their state of readiness.

Jacqui Molkenthin, JEML Consulting

If you are interested in any of my other articles about end-point assessment, they can be accessed via these links:

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