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Five ways to prepare your apprentices for end-point assessment

Tim Chewter, Head of Research and Communications, Strategic Development Network (SDN)

The end-point assessment is designed to provide a robust, independent and rigorous test of an apprentice’s skills and competence at the very end of the training programme.

But the key role in preparing the apprentice for the end-point assessment will sit with the training provider, working closely with the employer. If you are a training provider, you (and your teams) will need to get to grips with what the end-point assessment looks like, any new assessment methods, the concept of grading, and preparing apprentices to reach the required level of competence to move through the gateway.

Here are five top-level steps you can take – based on our work with 800 apprenticeship providers and 30 EPAOs – to help you prepare your apprentices for the end-point assessment:

  1. Unpick the assessment plan and speak to the End-Point Assessment Organisation

Your first port of call should be the assessment plan (and occupational brief, if one has been published). What are the key knowledge, skills and behaviours that will be assessed? What assessment methods are used? What does the grading criteria look like?

It is then important you speak with the End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO), who will have been selected by the employer. What is their approach to the end-point assessment and how will they carry it out? Although the EPAO will need to strictly adhere to the assessment plan, there can often be some flexibility in the way particular assessments are carried out. For example, there are several ways to conduct a professional discussion – some are more open, others are more closed. Some assessment methods may be conducted remotely, rather than face-to-face. It’s important to establish this upfront and find out what preparatory guidance the EPAO provides. Do they provide any resources or tools (mock assessments, for example), to help you and the apprentice understand what to expect?

  1. Build gateway and end-point assessment requirements into the training plan

Once you have established the requirements, look at how you could best map the knowledge, skills and behaviours into the training plan. What mandatory elements or qualifications will the apprentice need to complete to successfully move through the gateway? At what point, and in what order, will you support the apprentice to achieve this?

At what point will you introduce the end-point assessment to the apprentice and help them prepare? Does the EPAO require any assessments to be carried out on-programme that will count towards the final end-point assessment (e.g. project/portfolio)? How and when will the apprentice complete this?

  1. Integrate assessment methods into the training

It is important that by the time the apprentice moves through the gateway, they have not only reached the required level of competence but are also familiar with what they will face in the end-point assessment. There are different ways to do this – some providers are building in regular practice assessments throughout the on-programme training to monitor progress and help the apprentice to become familiar with particular methods. Others build in a more intensive ‘assessment phase’ towards the end, or draw on both models. Either way, you will need to create assessments and an environment that resembles the end-point assessment as part of the training. Engaging the employer in this process is often helpful.

  1. Use grading as a progress tool

Grading is a new concept for apprenticeships, and so brings its challenges. However, where it is introduced and used well by the training provider, it can be used as an effective tool to progress the apprentices’ learning and reduce the ‘fear factor’ for apprentices taking the end-point assessment. Using the assessment plan as a basis, as well as any guidance from the EPAO, look at how you might develop your own grading criteria to use on-programme. It will be important to have grading thresholds that reflect actual competence – again, it is helpful to engage the employer at this point. At what part of the on-programme training will you introduce the concept of grading? How might you use this as a high-quality monitoring and feedback tool for the apprentice? In what ways could you use grading to encourage and stimulate progress for the apprentice, rather than act as a discouragement?

  1. Access the latest practice, tools and insights to help you

In addition to EPAOs, there are several other sources of information and support to help you prepare apprentices for end-point assessment. We’ve just set up a new End-Point Assessment LinkedIn group for example, to share the latest insights, practice and tools.

A new webinar series has also been launched to help trainer-assessors prepare for their future role in apprenticeships, including developing training plans, integrating assessment, using grading and preparing the apprentice for the gateway.

There is also support available through the Future Apprenticeships programme, for those looking to become end-point assessors themselves.

Tim Chewter, Head of Research and Communications, Strategic Development Network (SDN)

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