From education to employment

External Quality Assurance – Hoping for more consistency and a reduction in complexity

Terry Fennell, Chief Executive and Responsible Officer at FDQ

@IFAteched consultation on External Quality Assurance: What I would like to see?

Reflecting on nearly four years as an end point assessment organisation (EPAO), the first thing that strikes me is how the time has literally flown by since FDQ created a brand-new business operation to add our existing awarding organisation (AO).

The pressures of EPAO operational delivery

In some ways, end point assessment (EPA) sits really comfortably within an AO as that’s what we do in a regulated space, we devise quality assured instruments of assessment that are robust and validated from beginning to end.

In other ways, delivering EPA is a completely different business operation requiring the EPAO to provide a range of services and interact directly with apprentices, employers and training providers to ensure the experience is independent and the resulting judgement is consistently fair and validated.

It sounds straightforward, but in reality, the EPAO operational delivery side of the business is a lot more complicated and it places significant pressures on newly founded systems, resources and our people working on the front line.

A flagship programme such as apprenticeships needs to have consistency

In terms of external quality assurance (EQA), everyone agrees that a flagship programme such as apprenticeships needs to have an assurance system that is fair, transparent and consistently applied. In the qualification space in England, we have a regulator and one set of rules and everyone is clear about compliance and the consequences if you fail to adhere.

Contrast that with EPA, a system where over 20 different organisations of contrasting sizes and with different histories have been approved to conduct EQA. I felt, four years ago, that this system would not work effectively.

Despite the reasonable introduction of single quality framework last summer, the fact remains that having multiple and diverse organisations (many without EQA core business experience) brings inconsistency across the landscape.

Public confidence in the apprenticeship system needs to be high

With over 50,000 completion certificates expected to be issued in 2020, it is so important that public confidence in the apprenticeship system is high and the 268 EPAOs now approved are all following the same rules and receiving the same standard of EQA.

Therefore, I welcome the review of EQA published by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) today (27 Feb) and look forward to seeing new proposals that will bring clarity and order to a complicated system.

I hope that we see more consistency and a reduction in complexity over the next four years.

Terry Fennell, Chief Executive and Responsible Officer at FDQ Ltd

This article originally appeared in EPA Weekly, published by the Federation of Awarding Bodies. Find out more and subscribe here.

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