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Exciting progress for apprenticeships as over 260 standards transferred from the Institute’s EQA service to Ofqual

By Rob Nitsch, Chief Operating Officer at the Institute, and Catherine Large, Executive Director of Vocational and Technical Qualifications at Ofqual.
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Exciting progress for the Institute (@IFATEched) and @Ofqual with apprenticeships 

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and @Ofqual are making good progress with simplifying and strengthening the external quality assurance (#EQA) of apprenticeship end point assessment.

EQA is a vital function that upholds the quality and consistency of assessment. Apprentices would not be sufficiently protected without this oversight.

The requirement of assessment at the end of apprenticeships is still a relatively new concept that was not required through the old-style apprenticeship frameworks.

Their introduction, through the new wave of employer-designed apprenticeship standards, has given apprentices a vital opportunity to prove they have really mastered all the relevant knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to do the occupation they have trained for – so they are occupationally competent.

First class end point assessment has also really helped boost confidence in apprenticeships among employers and the wider public for just this reason.

A wide variety of organisations currently deliver EQA oversight including the Institute, professional and employer groups, as well as established qualifications and higher education regulators, the Office for Students (OfS) and Ofqual.

This system served us well for bedding-in EQA, but we accept it’s over-complicated. There is also risk, identified through public consultation, that too many EQA providers could leave the system vulnerable to consistency challenges in the longer-term.

We are agreed on a better way forward that will see EQA only delivered by Ofqual or, for integrated degree apprenticeships, the Office for Students (OfS). This way, all end point assessment organisations delivering apprenticeship end point assessment will be subject to the same regulatory processes, which are designed to protect learners’ interests.

The first phase of this reform process is well under way and involves transition of over 260 apprenticeship standards from the Institute’s EQA service to Ofqual. 

Both organisations are committed to making this work in the best way possible for end point assessment organisations who must secure Ofqual recognition through the process. It is also vitally important that no apprentices are denied access to quality assessment as a result of the changeover.

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The revised timetable announced last month was a good example of our flexible and pragmatic approach to ensuring this works for everyone and we are working closely with end point assessment organisations and other stakeholders to make this a reality; key is that recognition applications are not delayed.

We are also looking ahead to phase two of transition programme. End point assessment organisations whose EQA provider service is currently delivered by a professional body, should also contact Ofqual as soon as possible, with phase two applications due to be submitted by 16 May 2022 at the latest.

Feedback from the sector to this flexible approach has been positive and we will continue to provide as much support as we possibly can to ensure that organisations of all shapes and sizes can participate and achieve recognition.

The vision is for a competitive market within which assessment is delivered by organisations imbued with contemporary assessment expertise and a good understanding of how to deliver for different work-based settings.

The Institute is supporting Ofqual and the OfS to access a broad spectrum of occupational expertise to inform their delivery of EQA through the creation of an employer directory of sector specialists.

This is an excellent example of how we are supporting each other and making the most of our different qualities for the benefit of employers and apprentices.

The combination of Ofqual’s regulation of qualifications and the Institute’s employer-facing expertise is complementary and we are committed to ensuring that this will benefit the sector for many years to come; we are both fired-up about fulfilling the vision, set out in the Skills and Post 16 Education Bill and Skills for Jobs white paper, for a unified, high-quality and employer-led system.

These are exciting times for technical education and we are hugely enthusiastic about delivering improvements that support the green-focused national recovery, keep pace with technological advances, and help ensure people from all backgrounds are supported to progress with fantastic careers.

By Rob Nitsch, Chief Operating Officer at the Institute, and Catherine Large, Executive Director of Vocational and Technical Qualifications at Ofqual.

Forging a new working relationship with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education in a changing regulatory landscape 

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