From education to employment

Has end-point assessment removed the need for on-programme assessment?

Breda Leyne, Senior Associate, SDN

You’d be surprised how many times SDN get asked this question – mainly from assessors who deliver frameworks and are worried they will be out of a job when their organisation makes the switch to standards.

The answer to the question however is simple ‘no’.

Yes, the final end-point assessment will sit with a separate organisation, and there will certainly be a greater focus on training, teaching and coaching on-programme – but on-programme assessment is going to be more important than ever.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • You will need to know the apprentice’s starting point, through the use of robust initial and diagnostic assessments with the apprentice and line-manager / employer
  • You will need to assess progress against milestones. Is the apprentice on track and working through the programme, as set out in their training plan?
  • You will need to identify gaps in learning and development, against the knowledge, skills and behaviours set out in the standard
  • You will need to highlight achievement and improvements in performance, to motivate the apprentice and reassure the employer
  • You will need to prepare apprentices for what they will face in the end-point assessment, including the format and focus of each assessment method and opportunities for improving grades
  • You will need to assess, with the employer, when the apprentice is ready to move through the gateway

What the introduction of end-point assessment does do, is that it gives trainers and training organisations a chance to review and refresh the use of assessment as part of their on-programme training and practice.

To help you with this, SDN sets out a number of common assessment methods.

It’s not a comprehensive list and is in no particular order. With that in mind, think about which methods might be relevant for the standards you plan to deliver (and the way apprentices will be assessed during the end-point assessment)? Where might they add value and support as you measure the progress of the apprentice’s learning?

Capstone project or assignment – a capstone project or assignment is one that integrates and evidences the knowledge, skills and behaviours that apprentices have acquired on-programme. For some, this may closely align (or form part of) what is expected at the end-point assessment.

Competitions – trainers can link into existing competitions or develop their own internally or in their region. This is particularly useful for apprentices who are likely to achieve at a higher grade and gives them an opportunity to perform under pressure and be judged independently. This is good preparation for the end-point assessment.

Employer review – a formal review with the employer to identify performance in the workplace. Capturing how the apprentice is applying their knowledge in the workplace can help indicate areas for further learning.

Externally set test or assignment – standardised tests / assessments developed by an external organisation (awarding or professional) to assess knowledge and skills. These are, in some cases, a prerequisite to the gateway but may also provide indications for further learning.

Formal internal test or assignment – the test of knowledge or skills could be written, oral, or a combination of both. You may want to look at how you use this, not only to assess progress of learning, but also to reflect what the apprentice will face in the end-point assessment.

Grading as a progress tool – grading, as part of the end-point assessment, is a new concept for apprenticeships. But grading can also be a useful progress tool on-programme 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 to assess progress and stretch apprentices to achieve higher-level grades.

Group exercises – structured discussions or exercises as a cohort can help to understand general development of knowledge, skills, behaviours and other softer skills. It might not allow you to fully capture progress and development at an individual level but is useful for gauging softs skills and behaviours.

Observations – observing a practical skills demonstration (perhaps as part of off-the-job learning) or observing everyday performance within the workplace is a great way to assess skills and behaviours. An observation may form part of the end-point assessment too, so observations on-programme will help apprentices to feel prepared and comfortable.

Portfolio – although there has been confusion around the status of portfolios within the standard and assessment plan, portfolios are a good way to collect and assess the development of knowledge and skills over time and will often be required if any on-programme qualifications are included. Portfolios may contain real work evidence, testimonies as well formal assignments.

Presentation – you may ask the apprentice to carry out a presentation to an individual assessor or to a group of other learners. This will often be followed by questioning and is good way to demonstrate both technical knowledge and soft skills.

Professional discussion – not only does it mirror what apprentices may face during the end-point assessment, it is also a useful way to gauge knowledge acquisition and theory, informing any gaps in learning or coaching required. It may also be useful for another member of staff to conduct the discussion / interview, so it feels like it is being conducted independently.

Reflective apprentice assignments – self / reflective assignments carried out by the apprentice can be a helpful way to determine the apprentice’s perception and level of confidence in their own learning. At the end of the training, you want the apprentice to feel confident in their occupational competence, ready to move through the gateway and into the end-point assessment.

And finally:

Assessment for Learning (AFL) is a reflective approach to teaching by which information is gathered by trainers/coaches to adjust their delivery strategies. It encourages learning and motivation, emphasising achievement rather than failure and involves student feedback.

Surveys of employers might also determine if they are finding their apprentices are satisfactorily skilled. This is a helpful way to capture trends across employers and cohorts you work with, allowing you to make adjustments to your delivery model more broadly.

There will be other assessment methods you can use on-programme too, and many providers are building in a specific preparation period for the end-point assessment, which picks up on some of the other assessment methods they will face such as projects, interviews and specific forms of written / oral tests.

Breda Leyne, Senior Associate, SDN

If you want bespoke support with apprenticeship and skills, contact SDN for advice.

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