Jennifer Coupland, IfATE

@IFAteched publishes First External Quality Assurance annual report highlighting key findings around how #EPA and #EQA has been delivered throughout 2020.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (the Institute) has today (16 Dec) published the first External Quality Assurance (EQAP) annual report.

It acknowledges that the past year has been incredibly challenging for everyone involved with apprenticeships – but a flexible approach to assessment that preserves quality has served the sector well.

Jennifer Coupland 100x100Jennifer Coupland, chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, said:

“I’m incredibly proud of all the fantastic work the sector has done with the Institute to ensure that EPA and EQA has continued successfully throughout the pandemic, allowing large numbers of apprentices to complete and move on with their exciting careers.

“While there are areas to improve on, this report shows that the vast majority of assessment is being delivered to a high-standard which is encouraging as we look ahead to 2021.”

“The report found that a common factor for end point assessment organisations delivering good EPA is that they bring together occupational and assessment expertise to design and deliver assessments which are relevant and authentic to the occupation.

“We will be careful to preserve both of those elements as we move through transition to our new EQA model.

“Good progress is being made with EQA. I would like to thank everyone who participated in our consultation on our plans to move to a simplified model. All EQA will be delivered by Ofqual or, for integrated degree apprenticeships, the Office for Students (OfS), under a framework set by the Institute.

“We are also setting up a new directory of professional and employer-led organisations for Ofqual and OfS to draw on industry expertise.

“This was our first annual report on EQA and we will publish every year from now on.”

Key findings around how end point assessment (EPA) and EQA has been delivered throughout 2020 

The Institute has worked closely with EQA providers, employer groups, and assessment organisations to design and approve over 100 flexibilities to the way EPA can be delivered.

This has included allowing for greater use of technology so assessment can be done remotely. These flexibilities have been extended until at least the end of March to provide much-needed stability.

EPA, taken at the end of the apprenticeship, allows the apprentice to showcase how they have developed all the required knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for the occupation they have trained in.

Its introduction was a major step forward for quality from the old apprenticeship frameworks, switched off in August, which did not require assessment after training had been completed.

The report published today reflects that most employers and apprentices who have experienced EPA consider it to be relevant, reliable, and robust.

It also reflects on how the EQA system is working and areas for improvement.

The Institute announced its plans to move to a simplified EQA system back in August. It means that in future all EQA will be delivered by Ofqual or, for integrated degree apprenticeships, the Office for Students (OfS).

The first wave of apprenticeship end-point-assessments changed over to Ofqual as their new EQA provider from November and we will manage the transition of all apprenticeships over the next two-years.

Next steps and plans for the future

The temporary flexibilities and discretions that have been permitted have allowed assessment to continue during a difficult time. This has been to the benefit of individual apprentices, and of the apprenticeship system as a whole.

In due course, when England moves out of lockdown, the Institute will need to ensure that the apprenticeship assessment system is able to return to a more normal way of doing business in an orderly manner, and learning the lessons from how assessment has been delivered over recent months. The Institute will follow national guidance in doing this and maintain the flexibilities and discretions whilst they remain necessary. They do, however, anticipate that the purpose of temporary changes to end-point assessment will change over the coming months.

The original temporary flexibilities and discretions approved from April this year have generally been used to allow apprentices who have reached the end of their apprenticeship to take the assessment. However, the Institute will increasingly need to deal fairly with apprentices who have experienced significant disruption to their off-the-job and, in particular, on-the-job apprenticeship experience. The changes the Institute have permitted over recent months have prioritised manageability and deliverability in unique circumstances.

Where substantive changes have been made these have been signed-off by employer representatives but in much quicker timescales than the Institute would normally require. They have not been through the full consultation and consideration by a wide group of employers that is normally provided by the Institute’s trailblazers and route panels and external consultations. Therefore, whilst they have achieved their purpose (of keeping assessments happening), there may be a risk that they have lost the richness, nuance and support/buy-in the original methodologies had.

It may also be true that some of the flexibilities and alternative assessments which have been used during this period provide more efficient and at least as effective assessment of occupational competence than the published assessment plan. In these instances, the Institute would want to explore with trailblazers and others whether the assessment plan should be reviewed and amended more permanently to reflect the ways assessment has been delivered in recent months, whilst still preserving the core principles of apprenticeship end-point assessment.

The Institute will review flexibilities individually, based on their approval dates, and the latest government guidelines, alongside an escalation route for sector actors to request a review of a standard’s flexibilities. The Institute is working to ensure that all flexibilities and temporary discretions, are reviewed in a time appropriate manner.

Any plans to revert to the published assessment plans will have a lead in time of 12 weeks to ensure that there are no ‘cliff edges’ for EPAOs.

Sector Response to the first External Quality Assurance annual report.

Tom Bewick, Chief Executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) said:tom bewick100x100

“The Federation welcomes this first report from the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, which helps to shine a light on how well end-point assessment is working in the apprenticeship marketplace since it was first introduced only a few years ago. We know from work with our own members, like that we recently profiled in Quality in Apprenticeships, that both employers and apprentices really do value the independent check on their competence that uniquely comes from a system of robust, well-regulated, EPAOs.

“The challenge now is to build on the strengths of EPA found in this report, as well as correcting some of the weaknesses highlighted by the EQA process. Thankfully, both the Institute and the Department for Education, via the Quality Alliance, have already committed to on-going changes that will see the major streamlining of the EPAO regulatory and operational environment in future. My only criticism of this report is that it is perhaps too heavy on discursive content about the performance of the EPAO network.

"In contrast, it is too light on the kind of hard metrics which would help employers and providers, in particular, discern what good really looks like and where in the marketplace they can find it. Efficient markets depend on clear signals for consumers (price, performance and results); and so it is important in future that more real time data is placed in the public domain about the actual performance and operational scope of every single EPAO that is on the register. To not pursue greater transparency in the EPAO marketplace will just end up leaving the public shortchanged.”  

Terry fennell 100x100 pixelsTerry Fennell, Chief Executive, FDQ said: 

"With over 320 end point assessment organisations now approved by the ESFA, I believe 2021 will be a watershed year for the marketplace as external quality assurance responsibilities transition to Ofqual and all EPAOs are subject to regulatory conditions of recognition. I welcome the move for a level playing field for all EPAOs because quality assurance of delivery of EPA is critical for sustainability and long-term confidence in the system.

"It is however concerning that in today’s EQA report fundamental delivery practices such as occupational expertise and understanding of design, delivery and moderation of assessment practice should be singled out as ‘good’ when in 2020 this should really be a minimum expectation for EPAOs and suggests to me the IfATE and EQA bodies have not found these practices in their monitoring work.

"That said, I strongly believe when delivered correctly end point assessment has been a game-changer for apprenticeships providing much greater integrity into the system with apprentices able to demonstrate occupational competence in an independent setting."

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page