Kelle McQuade, Lead Business Development Manager, TQUK

Like any other industry, the education sector is guilty of creating and throwing around its own abbreviations and acronyms. Love them or loathe them, they’re here to stay. Their widespread usage creates a sense of shared endeavour. And once they are widely used, they begin to take on additional associations and baggage. For instance, DCS (Direct Claims Status, when training providers meet qualification quality standards set out by their awarding organisation) carries with it a positive association, as does APR (Accredited Prior Learning, where an individual’s past education is recognised by the award of a qualification).

On the other end of the spectrum, Ofqual (The Office for Qualifications and Examination Regulations) and Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) tend to inspire dread. (So many audits!)

2017 brought a new acronym into circulation: EPA. End-Point Assessment (EPA) was one result of the government’s overhaul of technical education and apprenticeships, which included the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and T-Levels. The recent reforms the government applied to the apprenticeship scheme included a new assessment scheme. Assessment of apprentices now takes place at the end of the apprenticeship, as a final sign-off for standard activities, and must be conducted by a third-party organisation separate from the employer and training provider in order to maintain objectivity. The provision of EPA is now its very own sector and its implementation has sent appropriate ripples across further education.

When you hear this acronym, what comes to mind?

The answer may depend on who you are. For an apprentice, mention of EPA could well trigger fear and trepidation at the thought of a sphinx-like assessor blocking the gateway to certification. This is the person who will judge whether or not the apprentice is able to do their job. The amount of power an End-Point Assessor can have over an apprentice’s future is huge.

However, an End-Point Assessor might hear this acronym and think of how privileged they are to be given the chance to witness and assess the fruits of an apprentice’s labour.

EPA was introduced in order to determine whether an apprentice is occupationally competent. Whilst assessment needs to be robust, the concept of EPA does not have to inspire anxious cold sweats. We at TQUK, as an End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO), want to share in our apprentices’ successes.

So it may be useful to perform a little Jedi mind trick: rather than think of End-Point Assessment, let’s think of it as End-Point Achievement.

Rather than thinking of EPA as a test, it might inspire more positive feeling in all parties, but the apprentice in particular, to think of it as an opportunity for apprentices to showcase their very best sides; whether this be their exceptional culinary skills, unquestionable knowledge of the care sector or exemplary levels of customer service.

TQUK’s experience as the first EPAO to successfully deliver EPA of Hospitality apprentices means we know first hand what it means for apprentices to succeed. Their success relies on working closely with the appointed External Quality Assurer to verify the assessment materials we create and cultivating positive relationships with employers and training providers. If employers and training providers have a positive experience working with their EPAO, that positive experience will filter down to the apprentice, whose experience will contribute to a more positive connotation towards the concept of EPA.

Cultivating good relationships with employers and training providers means being there for them every step of the way. Our bespoke assessment and support materials help training providers prepare their apprentices for assessment components by offering true-to-form mocks, guidance and support, supplemented by advice from our team of experts. And with an employer’s role increasing in significance in this new world of apprenticeships, we’re frequently liaising with them to share our knowledge and help them nurture their apprentice so they are ready for EPA.

Apprentices also need their own materials to help them understand EPA’s requirements. Our bespoke materials will give apprentices a real sense of what each assessment component will look and feel like, and this will prepare them so that they can demonstrate their best knowledge, skills and behaviours. The feedback they receive from this process will help them progress through their career or onto other courses of learning.

We can all work together to make apprenticeships as desirable an educational pathway as we can. Sometimes, the smallest change to a single word can make the biggest difference!

Kelle McQuade, Lead Business Development Manager, TQUK

About Kelle McQuade: Kelle knows the FE sector inside and out from her 13+ years at Milton Keynes College as Prince’s Trust Programme Area Manager, Quality Improvement Manager and, mostly recently, Head of Improvement and Innovation. She’s been nominated for several leadership awards during her time at MKC and significantly contributed to several Ofsted inspections.

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