From education to employment

Delivering the new Trailblazer Standards

Jane Hyde-Walsh, Founder and Director of the Staffroom

From May 1st the new Trailblazer standards can be delivered to any new apprentices funded through the government’s apprenticeship reforms.

The change marks a radical transformation in the further education sector with not only funding being reformed but the whole structure and content of the new trailblazer standards is completely different to previous apprenticeships.

There is no doubt that the new apprenticeship standards will present some major challenges to the FE sector. However the changes also present a massive opportunity to develop collaborative approaches with employers towards the development of inspiring training programmes that will embed the knowledge and skills much needed by our workforce in the British economy.

Here are some key points to bear in mind when developing new apprenticeship programmes:

As training providers start to embrace these changes it’s important to bear in mind some key points as they start to develop new apprenticeship programmes.

Employer Led

The apprenticeship reforms are designed to meet the needs of employers and have been designed to be employer led. This means that the employer will be responsible for the management of learning, development and continuous assessment either on their own or with the support of the training provider.

Employers should work closely with any training provider to plan and deliver support and training and ensure the quality and consistency of all on-programme learning. As such they should expect to conduct regular performance reviews, provide regular feedback and guide development both independently and jointly with the training provider. By working together in this way they should decide when the apprentice is ready for their end point assessment.

Most Trailblazer Standards don’t contain Qualifications

The trailblazer standards have been developed by groups of employers from each relevant sector and the majority do not contain qualifications. They consist of a two page document that covers all the knowledge, skills, behaviour and attitudes that are expected as the standard for each occupation.

As a result programmes do not have to be delivered by qualified assessors or teachers, but can be delivered by trainers or skilled employees. How the programme is devised will dictate what parts of it can be delivered as off-the-job training and what elements may still require assessment.

Minimum Programme Length

The minimum duration for apprenticeship training is one year unless the framework or standard specification or assessment plan requires it to be longer. In apprenticeship standards, the end-point assessment can only be taken after the minimum duration has been met.

The minimum duration of each apprenticeship is based on the apprentice working 30 hours a week or more, including any off-the-job training they undertake.

20% off the job training

All the new apprenticeships require candidates to spend 20% of their time on ‘off-the-job training’ – this equates to a day a week for full time apprentices. Off-the-job training is defined ‘as learning which is undertaken outside of the normal day-to-day working environment and leads towards the achievement of an apprenticeship’.

What constitutes off-the-job training?

The amount of off-the-job training can include training which is delivered at the apprentice’s normal place of work but must not be delivered as part of their normal working duties.

All off-the-job training must be directly relevant to the apprenticeship framework or standard and could include the following:

  • The teaching of theory (for example, lectures, role playing, simulation exercises, online learning, manufacturer training)
  • Practical training, shadowing, mentoring, industry visits, learning new skills and attendance at competitions.
  • Learning support and time spent writing assessments/assignments.
  • English and Maths (up to level 2) (which is funded separately) cannot be included as part of the 20% off-the-job training plan.

What cannot be funded when developing apprenticeship programmes?

It’s also important to know that digital funds cannot be used to fund any of these activities:

  • Enrolment
  • Initial Diagnostic Testing
  • Prior Assessment
  • Induction
  • Progress reviews or on-programme assessment required for an apprenticeship framework.
  • Off-the-job training that is only delivered through distance learning.
  • Training which takes place outside the apprentice’s paid working hours.

Programme Content and Delivery

All trailblazer standards contain a mixture of knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitude elements and as a starting point it’s a good idea to begin discussing what sort of programme the employer wants for their apprentices and what they can support.

Many employers may still want programmes built around current vocational qualifications and units but the broad based content of the trailblazer standards means that it is probably unsustainable to deliver the whole trailblazer through existing units.

As an example, the awarding body NCFE have mapped the Level 2 Diploma in Customer Service to the Customer Service Apprenticeship Standard and there are a total of 31 units mapped across to this standard. It isn’t realistic, sustainable or motivational to deliver this number of units during the 12 month period dedicated to this apprenticeship. Instead, it’s important to devise programmes that are built around the assessment guidance for each standard and cover a variety of different delivery methods.

This presents a great opportunity to start to devise schemes of work for quality driven bespoke programmes that can include diverse delivery tools such as workshops, one to one coaching sessions, online and blended learning and assessment.

Apprenticeship Showcase

Apprentices may develop and maintain examples of their work throughout their apprenticeship to cover the full standard and this should be reviewed on a regular basis.

It makes sense that these portfolios will need to be assessed by qualified assessors on an ongoing basis and training providers will need to devise methods for review, feedback and a sign off process as the apprentice progresses through the standard.

Quality processes will also need to be put in place such as standardisations and observations of delivery staff as all these processes will become subject to Ofsted Inspections further down the road.

The apprentice showcase will be assessed against an externally set brief or assessment plan set by the assessment organisation. The structure of this end point assessment should be flexible although most assessment plans divide the assessment process into areas to be covered by the apprentice showcase and other assessment methods such as observation or professional discussion. 

End Point Assessment

Each standard will be subject to an End Point Assessment process after the minimum period of the apprenticeship has been completed.

All approved standards have an assessment plan and the employer in conjunction with the training provider, will formally sign-off a declaration to state that the apprentice has met the minimum requirements in regards to knowledge, skills and behaviours within the standard and confirm that they are ready to move on to end point assessment.  

End point assessment should be carried out by an organisation or body from the register of apprentice assessment organisations and they must be independent from the employer and the training provider who has supported the delivery of the apprenticeship.

All end point assessors have to demonstrate the following:

  • Understanding of the occupational area covered by the apprenticeship
  • Current occupational competence of 2 years or more
  • No direct relationship with the apprentice
  • Hold or are working towards a qualification to undertake assessment and verification activity i.e. Assessor/Verifier, PGCE or Cert Ed.
  • Sound continuous professional development and currency in occupational areas
  • Adherence to internal and external quality systems

End-Point Grading

For the first time Apprenticeships will now be subject to a grading process and all the trailblazer standards will be graded. A pass or distinction grade will be awarded at the end point assessment with the final grade being based on the performance of the apprentice showcase, practical observation, professional discussion and any other assessment methods detailed in the plan.

A distinction will be awarded to an apprentice who consistently performs above the required level for the role.

Grading of apprentice end point assessments is likely to present a challenge to the sector and it’ll be important to develop a vigorous marking and grading scheme and to perform regular standardisation exercises around this process to ensure quality and consistency within the process.

Re-sits and re-submissions

If any part of the assessment is insufficient, then a re-submission can be arranged. It’s not envisaged that multiple re-submissions will take place however, as apprentices should only be nominated by the employer and training provider for end point assessment when they are ready for this process.

Remember that apprentices should only re-sit the assessment after they have undertaken additional learning and Employers will be liable for the costs of re-sits if no new learning has taken place.

Quality Assurance

Internal Quality Assurance

Organisations undertaking both programme delivery and end point assessment must demonstrate a robust approach towards internal quality assurance. This should include ongoing monitoring of assessors and regular standardisation meetings to ensure consistency and reliability of the decisions being made.  

It’s important that all independent assessment organisations develop sound marking and grading schemes and these should be used when developing apprentice programmes and used to ensure consistency and quality within the end point assessment process.

External Quality Assurance

At the moment it is envisaged that be undertaken by Ofqual although there isn’t any guidance available about what form this process will take at the moment.

Continuous Professional Development

During such a period of radical change it’s more important than ever that staff working with training providers and end-point assessment organisations can demonstrate that they are occupationally competent and up to date with all aspects of what must be delivered under the apprenticeship standard.

It’s therefore essential that all trainers and assessors have a robust approach towards continuous professional development including recording, planning and staying on top of knowledge and skills. As new programmes are developed for these new standards, it’s vital that all colleges and training providers scrutinise the effectiveness of staff members’ professional development and ensure that they are able to deliver the new standards in their areas of occupational expertise.

Jane Hyde-Walsh, Founder and Director of the Staffroom

About the Staffroom: A membership site that supports anyone working in the education sector with their continuous professional development.

Visit and start developing your own strong CPD process so you’ll be ready to begin delivering the content and end point assessment for the new apprenticeship standards.

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