SFA approve just 13% of apprentice assessment organisation applications

SFA approve just 13% of apprentice assessment organisation applications

Organisations applying to the government’s new register of apprenticeship assessment organisations are being turned away because their plans for end-point assessment are not up to scratch, according to the new interim chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships, Peter Lauener.

Mr Lauener (pictured above right), who is also chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency and Education Funding Agency, told the Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy today (October 19), that the SFA has “knocked back quite a lot” of applications because they failed to meet the correct standards.

During the hour long meeting, which focused on a number of aspects of apprenticeship reform, he said: “We’ve knocked back quite a lot where we’ve said we don’t think they actually meet the laid down standards, because the quality of the end point assessment is absolutely critical to the quality of the apprenticeship.

“We’re working quite closely with a number where there has been a near miss that we expect to meet the standard for end-point assessment shortly, and there are a quite a lot of applications in the pipeline as well.”

Mr Lauener confirmed that just 21 organisations have made it onto the register so far, out of 161 applications since the start of the process.

Sally Collier, chief regulator at Ofqual (pictured above left), also addressed the topic of end-point assessments during the meeting and announced that the qualifications watchdog will be running workshops to help employers with developing assessment plans.

She warned against the “unintended consequences of creating quite complex assessments” and added that Ofqual are “looking at a series of risks to the system”.

Ms Collier said: “We’ve looked a 24 assessment plans – we’ve said that half of them, we are willing to regulate them as good standard assessments.

“What we’re saying to the other twelve is, we think you need to approach this differently, or we think the grading system needs to be slightly different, in order to bring them all up to that standard.”

The discussion comes after FE Week reported on Friday (October 14) that there are currently no approved awarding organisations for over 40 per cent of learner starts on new apprenticeship standards.

FE Week’s research showed this applies to 1,790 (42 per cent) out of the total number of starts (4,240) so far on the employer-developed programmes.

The revelation provoked Dr Sue Pember, who stood down as the civil service head of further education and skills investment in February 2013, to comment: “It is diabolical to let an apprentice start a programme, without explaining not only what the end test will contain, but where it will be, what shape it will take and who will be the organisation to oversee and manage the process.”

The Department for Education admitted to FE Week that it is struggling to recruit enough of these assessment organisations, with a spokesperson saying: “We know there is more work to be done to ensure we have the range and breadth of high quality assessment organisations we need.”

He added: “That is why we are working with the Skills Funding Agency to raise awareness of the register and encourage more assessment organisations to sign up.

“On top of this, we now require all groups of employers bidding to develop a standard to commit themselves to using it.”