From education to employment

Cost and Price Modelling for End-point Assessment Organisations, 10 considerations

I have been working with a number of new end-point assessment organisations, over the past few months, helping to set up their service. An interesting part of those discussions and developments has been how to cost and price end-point assessment, so I thought I would share a list of 10 things to consider when modelling costs and determining the price. The list is not exhaustive, but it is not designed to be, it is designed to get you thinking, and I hope you find it helpful.

First and foremost, read the Conditions for EpAOs. Within the conditions, section 5 details eligible and ineligible costs for EpAOs.  Not only this, once you read the document, you will understand that there is a difference between cost and price in end-point assessment.  You as an EpAO will incur a wide range of costs, but not all those costs can be translated into your price, because there are some costs that are not eligible for funding by the ESFA, and as such cannot be included in the price agreed with the employer. You will understand a bit more as you progress through the 10 points of consideration:

1, Administration and overheads – Consider items and activities such as: (a) IT platforms supporting your EPA service; (b) staff time to register the apprentice with you, issue guidance, carry out gateway checks,  check/monitor/manage/mitigate conflicts of interest, schedule assessments, co-ordinate meetings, issue results, arrange re-sits/re-takes, request certificates; (c) finance time for activities such as invoicing; (d) legal time associated with contracting; (e) client management – many EpAOs provide a client manager for the employers/providers; (f) management time for investigations such as malpractice/maladministration, complaints and appeals; (g) staff time supporting requests for reasonable adjustments, and the costs associated with providing them; (h) governance; (i) business overheads associated with your EPA service.   However, you must remember that the recruitment of your assessors is an ineligible cost, not funded by the ESFA, and as such cannot be included in the price agreed with employers.

2, Marketing and promotion – these are legitimate costs for you as an EpAO, such as marketing literature, but these are ineligible costs, which are not funded by the ESFA, and as such cannot be included in the price agreed with employers.

3, Training and CPD – all your staff, including assessors and invigilators, will need to be trained on your EPA processes, IT systems, procedures and policies. Assessors must also be trained on your EPA tools, and many assessment plans mandate additional assessor CPD.  The conditions state that “ensuring trained staff” is an eligible cost, but that the continuing professional development (CPD) of your assessors, is an ineligible cost. This means that you must be clear about what is training and what is CPD, because assessor CPD is not eligible for funding by the ESFA, and as such cannot be included in the price agreed with employers.

4, EPA guidance and support materials design – You will need to produce guidance and materials for your customers (apprentice, employer and provider), including detailed specifications for each EPA activity, on your end-point assessment service.  You will also need to make sure you have a fully operational set of policies covering your entire EPA service, which means that you will require additional policies to those submitted at the original register application, such as malpractice and maladministration and data management.  However, you must remember that promotional materials are an ineligible cost, not funded by the ESFA, which cannot be included in the price agreed with employers. This means that you must distinguish between support materials and promotional materials.

5, EPA tool design – consider costs associated with development and testing of a range of tools (which may involve working groups of industry experts). These will depend on the assessment plan but may include activities such as: (a) question banks, and associated answers, (b) detailed assessment specifications and codes of conduct; (c) grading matrices; (d) assessment marking sheets and assessor guidance; (e) case studies / scenarios for projects; (e) provision of mocks; and so on.

6, EPA delivery – Again, these will vary according to the assessment plan, but consider things such as: (a) venue and equipment costs – some may be provided by the employer/provider, others may be provided by you the EpAO, but whichever way, you must consider these costs as they are eligible for funding by the ESFA.  If the employer/provider is providing them, don’t forget you may have costs associated with carrying out checks to make sure the venue is suitable for EPA (H&S and safeguarding). The costs associated with ensuring appropriate premises are eligible costs, but ‘centre approval processes’ are ineligible costs, not funded by the ESFA, and as such cannot be included in the price agreed with employers; (b) invigilator costs (invigilator time and travel, or remote invigilation costs); (c) assessor costs – preparation, delivery and assessment write up , including travel time/costs; (d) on-line assessment delivery (you may be paying for an on-line examination delivery system); (e) marking for knowledge tests – person or electronic; (e) reasonable adjustments in delivery; and so on.

7, resits and retakes of the end-point assessment – these are eligible costs (section 5.7 of the conditions), but they are not eligible for funding by the ESFA (ESFA resit guidance). These costs would need to covered by the employer (as opposed to via the provider), you can find out more in the ESFA guide to re-sits and re-takes.

8, quality assurance – you will have to undertake a range of activities as part of quality assurance, and as such you should consider these in your cost modelling, such as: (a) standardisation (mandatory across the majority of assessment plans); (b) moderation; (c) assessor sampling / observations – the time of a senior/lead assessor to internally quality assure your assessment practice; (d) annual reviews and maintenance of assessment materials, tools, policies and processes/procedures; (e) carrying out and analysing feedback from customers; (f) producing reports for your EQA provider / ESFA / IfATE; (g) costs of your EQA provider (some charge for EQA); and so on.

9, Contingency planning – in your cost modelling: (a) do you have scope for economies of scale, for example, are you able to amend your price depending on the volume of apprentices?; what would you do if those volumes didn’t materialise?; (b) what happens if the rules or assessment plan change and it impacts your costs?; (c) what about situations out of your control, such as Covid-19?; (d) what happens if an employer  or provider makes a last minute cancellation? The conditions for EpAOs do make reference to some scenarios (section 5.10 to 5.13), but as an EpAO you need to consider best and worst-case scenarios in your cost modelling.

10, Consider the funding band – The conditions state that eligible costs should not usually exceed 20% of the funding band maximum for the standard, but within some assessment plans (mostly the older ones) a funding value or percentage is provided, which is different to this. Don’t fall into the trap of just charging 20%; as a business you must understand your cost base before determining your price, as you must be sure that the delivery is financially viable, and that you are competitive in the market place. The end-point assessment costs can be above 20%, but in those situations the employer must pay the difference.

I hope this is useful, it is by no means a definitive list, but it may help newer EpAOs begin to map out their costs, and plan their pricing structures. 

Jacqui Molkenthin, JEML Consulting

Copyright © 2020 JEML Consulting 

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

What do End-point Assessment Organisations (EpAOs) value most from their External Quality Assurance (EQA) providers?

End-point Assessment Organisation perspectives on the Ofqual recognition process

The art of the possible in end-point assessment observation during Covid-19

EPA during Covid-19

EPA from the perspective of assessors and EpAOs, the full survey report can be downloaded here

Ofqual for micro EpAOs

Conflicts of Interest in end-point Assessment

Assessing behaviours in EPA

Translating an apprenticeship standard into a curriculum

How to become an EpAO

Gateway to EPA, more than just a tick box exercise

Lifting the lid on EQA

Employer led EQA

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