From education to employment

Some practical ways to ensure apprentices make progress in learning

Hilary Read, Author and publisher of guides and e-resources for vocational teachers and assessors.

Managing learning and progress in #apprenticeships

Following my previous article on planning the vocational curriculum, this one looks at how you actively manage teaching and learning in apprenticeships and contains extracts from my online publication The best apprenticeships guide.


Apprentices learn most from carrying out activities in the work environment so don’t fall into the trap of thinking the employer is providing 80% of the curriculum and that you’re only responsible for the mandatory 20% off-job training. This can be de-motivating for apprentices if they can’t see the reasons behind what they are learning. Similarly, employers won’t see what you do as the training provider.

Making learning and progress visible to apprentices and their employers means taking an active role in managing the on-programme learning journey.

In this way, apprentices are more likely to succeed when it comes to the gateway and to end-point assessment.

  1. Follow basic principles in relation to the individual apprentice’s learning journey: initial assessment; planning learning; formative assessment; summative assessment (if the assessment plan calls for it); preparation for end-point assessment; keeping records.
  1. Don’t jump straight to end-point assessment (important though this is) and don’t use the apprenticeship standard as the curriculum because it isn’t!
  1. Remember: if you are involved in delivering on-programme teaching, coaching and assessment, it is your job to make professional judgements concerning apprentices’ learning and progress and to stand by these. Don’t be pressured into putting apprentices forward for EPA if they aren’t meeting the apprenticeship standards on a regular basis. Similarly, digital capture of progress doesn’t drive the process: you do.

Practical activities

Here are some practical ways to ensure apprentices make progress in learning:



Identify learning opportunities in the apprentice’s workplace and liaise with the employer about how to capitalise on these:

Set a work-based project based on the individual’s learning needs that will also benefit the employer

Give regular feedback on progress:

Involve the employer

Involve the apprentice

Give specific advice on how well the apprentice is performing in relation to the standards and what they need to do to improve

Negotiate new learning targets

Only assess when there’s something to assess:

Ensure apprentices have acquired and practised skills, knowledge and behaviours before carrying out summative assessment towards a qualification or considering their readiness for end-point assessment

Make explicit links between all parts of the apprentice’s on-programme learning:

Involve other teaching and learning professionals when the apprentice has a particular need. For example, work with the Functional Skills tutor to design learning activities linked to the workplace and the learning needs you have identified

Be a gatekeeper for the apprenticeship standard:

Manage the context(s) and conditions under which the learner needs to perform (especially if they are not meeting their targets). For example, if the standards require a learner to be working with different materials or within a different department, make the necessary arrangements with the employer

Be an advocate for the apprentice’s learning needs:

Challenge lack of opportunity on the employer’s part and/or lack of progress on the apprentice’s

Be transparent about any cost or time implications concerning lack of progress and/or opportunities for learning

Say no to undue pressure to ‘get the apprentice through’ for reasons of cost or funding

Teach and coach according to individual needs:

Where you identify gaps, slow progress, or particular learning needs, prepare sessions to meet these either on the job (while the apprentice is carrying out the particular task) or near the job (where you take them away from the job they are doing and teach in the work place)

Wherever possible, plan for these opportunities. Capture and record any new learning that takes place as it counts towards the 20%

Re-visit all mandatory elements and gateway requirements:

Make these explicit to the employer and apprentice; remind them regularly and give guidance concerning their contributions, for example: writing learner and employer statements; assembling po. Don’t rely on the information given at recruitment and induction

Practise for end-point assessment:

Make underpinning knowledge, skills and behaviours explicit; tell the apprentice how they are learning these and how they will be tested at the end. Build in opportunities for practising EPA throughout the apprenticeship (EPAOs report lack of familiarity with EPA methods as one of the reasons why apprentices fail)


Use the following checklist to ensure that your apprentice is ready for end-point assessment. You are aiming for a ‘yes’ in every case. If you answer ‘no’, this tells you that your apprentice needs further preparation or training in that area.




1. Is the apprentice performing consistently to meet the knowledge, skills and behaviours in the apprenticeship standard?


2. If ‘yes’, do you have evidence of this that can be linked directly to the standards?


3. Is the apprentice consistently performing at the right level?


4. If ‘yes’, do you have evidence of this?


5. Has the apprentice met all the gateway requirements?


6. Does the employer agree that the apprentice is ready for EPA?


7. Has the apprentice produced all the evidence they need to present to the end-point assessor?


8. Is the apprentice familiar with the end-point assessment methods, including how grades are allocated?


9. Has the apprentice achieved a ‘pass’ or above in mock EPAs they have undertaken?


Hilary Read, Author and publisher of guides and e-resources for vocational teachers and assessors

Hilary publishes printed guides (currently half-price) and runs an online subscription service for teachers, trainers quality assurers and assessors. She runs webinars and workshops on latest initiatives within the sector and what these mean for practitioners. Her latest events are on curriculum planning, the EIF and T-Levels.

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