From education to employment

Professional Assessment Ltd launches mental health and wellbeing resources for End-point Assessments 

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Professional Assessment Ltd (PAL), a leading provider of end-point assessment and compliance services for training organisations and employers, has launched a new wellbeing resource to better support apprentices through their full apprenticeship and end-point assessment (EPA) journey. 

Angela Dhariwal, EPA Manager at PAL, said,

Apprenticeships are being discussed more and more, and are now a valid alternative to higher education. They open the door to knowledge, skills and careers that individuals are passionate about, though we fully understand the pressure that surrounds assessments. PAL’s overarching goal at the centre of everything we do is to support apprentices, so ensuring they have the right wellbeing support is critical to that.” 

A recent study found that 68% of students admitted that the apprehension and anxiousness that comes with test-taking negatively affect the social aspect of their school lives. Nearly half of the respondents (42%) reported consistently worrying that test anxiety will negatively impact their academic future. Awareness around anxiety and mental health has grown over the last decade, but the impacts are no less serious than they always have been.  

PAL’s new wellbeing resource is provided to all training providers running their EPAs with PAL and are unique to each apprenticeship. The training provider can then share these resources with apprentices at their enrolments and refer back to them throughout the course of the training and assessment.  

Included in the wellbeing resource that sits alongside the other training plan materials is:

  • A full run down of the apprenticeship journey, through the gateway meeting and EPA expectations for their specific apprenticeship. This includes what they will be assessed on and the assessment formats, and the re-sit process. This allows apprentices to visualise and appropriately prepare for the whole process.
  • Tips on how to deal with exam stress and coping with anxiety. There is also advice and links through to further wellbeing resources from recognised bodies, such as NHS and Cognassist.
  • Financial support and advice tools that outline wage entitlement and links to memberships like NUS that can help them save money and have less anxiety around spending. 

Much of the content from this resource will be available on PAL’s new wellbeing webpage, providing access to other training providers and apprenticeships for free.  

PAL fully recognises that the EPA process is daunting. Up until the gateway meeting, the review process is led by an apprentice’s employers and trainers. Transitioning from continuous observation into an exam environment means stepping away from your trainer who the apprentice will have known for months and meeting the assessor who will determine their success.  

Mental wellbeing advice for training providers and employers

To help apprentices handle the pressure surrounding EPAs, PAL’s top pieces of wellbeing advice for employers and training providers are: 

Create an environment where learners can ask for help without being prompted to:
Have regular check-is and open conversations that are not focused on the training progress but about the learner’s experience. It can be as simple as, “How do you feel about your EPA?” 

Set aside funding for those that may require extra support overcoming mental health challenges:
Evidence for mitigating circumstances or extra support can sometimes be hard to provide, especially with demographics who are not provided with full educational health plans, so these individuals may require adaptations made by their employer and training provider. 

Understand that uncertainty can be a huge source of stress, so ensure apprentices fully understand the journey to assessment and what is expected of them:
Mock interviews with individuals who are not part of their regular training can be great practice for the real thing. 

Recognise that mental wellbeing is for everyone: While chefs may come across as more volatile and level 5 managers may present themselves in a stoic professional manner, they could be having the same issues and feel unable to talk about them. Start with the individual rather than the role. 

Don’t discuss previous qualification experiences:
For apprentices, previous exams may have been a negative experience that they wish to move past and focus on more applied skills that academic qualifications. Each exam they take will carry a differing level of anxiety.

If possible, provide apprenticeship with assessment options that work best for them:
For interviews, some would prefer having face-to-face meetings rather than video calls or vice versa. Your EPAOs will help tailor assessments to match preferences while ensuring validity is maintained. 

For the open wellbeing resource on PAL’s website, visit here for more information

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