I am often asked by EpAOs to review policies, processes and procedures against the plethora of official documents and guidance that relate to end-point assessment. There are so many agencies involved in one way or another (ESFA, Ofqual, IfATE, EQA providers) that it can get confusing, so I thought I would pick out some of the main areas and summarise the key points. I am not saying anything new here, I am just trying to bring things together to aid understanding.
I have heard some say that because Ofqual refers to packaging in its Conditions (Condition F2), it means that if the EpAO is Ofqual regulated they can offer packages around their end-point assessment service. This is not the case. Ofqual sets the rules around what an awarding organisation must do if they provide packages across their qualifications, but the ESFA, as the funding body, does not permit packaging within its Conditions for EpAOs: “4.3 You must not promote your EPA service as an undifferentiated part of any package of broader services you may offer to an employer or apprenticeship training provider, including as part of an undifferentiated package of services linked to on-programme qualifications and/or delivery. While you may promote a range of services, and may do this through a single source, you must be clear that your EPA service is a separate and independent offer and costs will be separately charged for it.”
Selection of, and contracting with, the EpAO
- Please remember that the rules are very clear on this, it is must be the employer, and not the training provider, that selects the end-point assessment organisation. ESFA Funding Rule P163: “It is the responsibility of the employer to select the end-point assessment organisation”. This is reiterated in the ESFA Conditions for EpAOs “5.1 The employer will select you and negotiate and agree a price with you for EPA”. The Conditions also state “4.5 Where you have been approached by a training provider to deliver EPA you should request details of the employer in order that you can meet with the employer and discuss and confirm arrangements for EPA directly.”
- Don’t forget that the Commitment Statement (training plan) between the employer, apprentice and main provider must include the details of the EpAO Funding Rule P66.2
- The contract must be between the main training provider and the EpAO. ESFA Funding Rule P163: “You must contract with the end-point assessment organisation that has been selected by the employer and lead the relationship with them including where you subcontract the delivery of apprenticeship training. This allows you, on behalf of the employer, to make payment to them for conducting the end-point assessment. The written agreement must set out the arrangements for sharing relevant information about the apprentice so end-point assessment and certification can take place, including arrangements for any re-takes and payments. This must also include arrangements for a change of circumstances, which may delay, or lead to the cancellation of, the end-point assessment”.
- As part of the contracting and registration, the provider must provide ULNs to the EpAO: “P70 You must give accurate unique learner number (ULN) information to the apprenticeship service, awarding organisations and end-point assessment organisations and ensure all information used to register apprentices is correct”. The use of ULNs also supports Ofqual Condition G5.1: “An awarding organisation must take all reasonable steps to ensure that each Learner taking a qualification which the awarding organisation makes available is registered in a way that permits the Learner to be clearly and uniquely identified”
Cost, Pricing, and Fees
- The ESFA publishes the funding band for the standard, and the ESFA funding rules state that they do not expect the costs of EPA to exceed 20% of the funding band “P166 We expect that the cost of end-point assessment will not usually exceed 20% of the funding band maximum”. This is reiterated in the ESFA Conditions “5.2 Eligible costs should not usually exceed 20% of the funding band maximum for the standard”.
- The ESFA Conditions for EpAOs, section 5.7 and 5.8 clearly set out what costs are eligible and ineligible within end-point assessment.
- Ofqual does not state what costs are eligible and ineligible, that is not their role, but their Condition F1 does state the type of information an EpAO must produce and provide, such as up to date, easily accessible fees. Condition F3.2/F3.3 also details the requirement for a policy on invoicing.
- Don’t forget that the ESFA funding rules permit price negotiation by the employer (not training provider) “P163 It is the responsibility of the employer to select the end-point assessment organisation and negotiate the price within the funding band for assessment”. This is reiterated in the ESFA Conditions “ 5.1 The employer will select you and negotiate and agree a price with you for EPA”
- Whilst I’m on the subject of pricing, make sure you are clear on VAT. The ESFA funding rules are clear that “P237 Supplies of training or end-point assessment, which are paid by government funding, including the apprenticeship levy, are exempt from VAT”. However, don’t forget that there are some elements of EPA that are not paid for by government funding, such as costs above the 20% of the funding band maximum and resits – the ESFA Guidance on gateway and resits makes it clear that “Resits are ineligible costs and are not funded by the Education and Skills Funding Agency”
- Historically (not recently) I have heard people refer to EpAOs as subcontractors of main training providers. This is not the case. The ESFA funding rules state “P163 You must contract with the end-point assessment organisation that has been selected by the employer and lead the relationship with them including where you subcontract the delivery of apprenticeship training,” but they go on to make it clear, in the glossary, that an EpAO is not considered a subcontractor of a main provider “Delivery subcontractor – does not include end-point assessment organisations”. A point that is reiterated in the ESFA Conditions for EpAOs “5.5 This does not make you a delivery subcontractor of the training provider”
- As an EpAO, if you do work with other organisations to facilitate assessment, for example, an employer or training provider providing assessment delivery premises (third party) or a training provider providing an invigilator (centre), you must remember deliver in accordance with the apprenticeship assessment plan, and adhere to the Ofqual Conditions around “Centres” and “Third Parties” (Ofqual Condition C). However, you must always remember that the ESFA Conditions for EpAOs do not permit the subcontracting of EPA to other organisations “3.5 You must not contract out EPA to another organisation to deliver on your behalf (although you may use contracted assessors who may be self-employed or drawn from other organisations to support your delivery of EPA).”
Readiness for EPA
- Section 3.2 of the ESFA Conditions for EpAOs states “you must have in place the necessary administrative and systems infrastructure and associated internal quality assurance policies and procedures to support your end to-end EPA service. This means you should be able to support meaningful engagement with employers to offer EPA services and that you are able to support them, and their apprentices, to understand and prepare for the end-point activity”
- The ESFA Guidance on gateway and resits provides details on the role of each organisation, for example, the EpAO “should provide assessment preparation and practice resources to the employer and training provider to help them prepare the apprentice for EPA and decide when their apprentice is occupationally competent and ready to take EPA”.
- Under Ofqual regulation, the EpAO must have a specification (Ofqual Condition E3) which is clear, accurate and communicates what the EPA requires of the apprentice. Further details are also provided within the Ofqual EPA level condition guidance.
All parties (employer, training provider, apprentice and EpAO) have a role to play at gateway:
- The ESFA Funding Rules P32 state that the provider must confirm that minimum duration has been met. The ESFA Funding Rules P157 go on to explain that “The employer in consultation with the main provider must ensure that the apprentice is prepared and understands the end-point assessment process” and “As part of this process all information required for the end-point assessment must be ready to present to the end-point-assessment-organisation for the gateway”.
- The ESFA guidance on gateway and resits provides further details on roles for all parties at gateway
- Don’t forget that the Ofqual EPA level Condition EPA 1.2 make it clear that the EpAO (Awarding Organisation) “must take all reasonable steps to satisfy itself that each Learner has met any relevant Gateway Requirement prior to taking an assessment for an EPA which it makes available or proposes to make available.”
- The ESFA Funding Rules P285 also act as a reminder to the EpAO that they “must not claim the apprenticeship completion certificate from ESFA until they have received evidence from the provider that the apprentice has met all the requirements of the apprenticeship including English and maths”
- When it comes to English and maths for level 3 apprenticeships, please be mindful of the assessment plan. For example, the Funding Rules P145 state “You must provide verifiable evidence of the apprentice’s achievement in English and / or maths. Providers must do this as soon as possible, and before the gateway to end-point assessment”, but there are some assessment plans that do not require the qualifications to be achieved prior to gateway, such as ST0550 Safety, Health and Environment Technician “Apprentices without level 2 English and maths will need to take the tests for this level prior to taking the end-point assessment”. Section 7.1 of the ESFA Conditions for EpAOs makes it clear that the gateway is about meeting the requirements of the assessment plan, and the ESFA Conditions section 1.2 also states “In the event of any conflict between the conditions set out in this document and any other documents produced by us relating to EPA, this document takes priority”. This suggests to me that the requirements of the assessment plan outweigh the ESFA Funding Rules.
- The ability to ensure reasonable adjusts are in place at EPA is critical. Details on reasonable adjustments, including funding, are provided throughout the ESFA Funding Rules, but sadly not mentioned in the ESFA Conditions for EpAOs.
- Some detail on time frames and roles are provided in the ESFA guidance on gateway and resits
- The IfATE has produced detailed guidance and a matrix on reasonable adjustments during end-point assessment
- Ofqual has detailed requirements on the provision of reasonable adjustments (Condition G6.2)
Publishing details about your offer
There are whole range of places where your information will be publicly available, and it will be your job to ensure that the information remains up to date and accurate:
- ESFA register of EpAOs
- Find an EpAO
- Ofqual register – it is part of the Ofqual Conditions (Condition E6) to keep the information on here accurate and up to date
Protection during end-point assessment
- An apprentice must be employed including for the period of end-point assessment: ESFA Funding Rules: “P26 The apprentice must be employed by an employer, or an apprenticeship training agency (ATA), for a period which is long enough for the apprentice to complete the apprenticeship successfully (including the end-point assessment).” and “P158 The apprentice must be employed until the end-point assessment is completed. The only exception is where the apprentice has been made redundant and we are funding the apprenticeship to completion.”
- The employer retains a duty of care throughout the end-point assessment period, as detailed within the ESFA Conditions for EpAOs section 7.1. Further details are also provided in the ESFA guidance on gateway and resits employers should “ensure apprentices are supported in practical terms through EPA, for example providing access to sites where their EPA will take place”
I hope this helps bring a few things together for you, alongside providing hyperlinks directly to the relevant documents. All of my other EpAO support articles can be accessed here. I also produce weekly roundups on all things end-point assessment, and a monthly analysis of the register of EpAOs and Ofqual recognition on my LinkedIn page.