Skills Funding Agency to remain in charge of assessment organisation register

Skills Funding Agency to remain in charge of assessment organisation register

The Skills Funding Agency will stay in charge of the new register of apprentice assessment organisations, despite its slow start, and even though it is not related to funding.

The government’s Draft Strategic Guidance to the IfA, unveiled on January 4, controversially confirmed that the SFA would “maintain responsibility for administration” of the register.

This will be a source of dismay to many in the sector who have been frustrated with the agency’s slow progress with approval of AOs.

Exclusive FE Week analysis showed in December that there were still 78 approved apprenticeship standards without a single AO, amounting to just over 50 per cent of the total approved for delivery.

In January, the SFA assumed responsibility for issuing certificates for completed apprenticeship standards, taking over from the Federation of Industry Sector Skills and Standards.

And the IfA’s strategic guidance indicated the agency and not the institute, which is supposed to be the new policing body for apprenticeships, will retain the certification responsibility long-term.

Graham Hasting-Evans, managing director of awarding organisation NOCN, said dividing such key responsibilities between the SFA and the IfA was likely to “result in duplication”.

“In our view, we need to have in place one organisation which is accountable for implementation, quality assurance and delivery of the most fundamental change to our skills system in a decade – and we need to start putting it in place now,” he said.

Sadly we are very disappointed. So little progress has been made in the eight months since the Enterprise Act was passed.

“We had hoped that the consultation would set out clearly the government’s vision and plans for the structure of the institute in April 2018 with the roadmap of how it plans to get to that point.

“Sadly we are very disappointed. So little progress has been made in the eight months since the Enterprise Act was passed. One wonders if anything meaningful will be in place for April 2017?”

Stephen Wright, chief executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies, meanwhile complained that the proposed arrangement “seems to be fragmented across a number of agencies and would benefit from consolidation”.

“What doesn’t seem to come through clearly in the strategic guidance is the critical role of assessment professionals,” he added.

The decision to pass the certification process over to the SFA means that apprenticeship end-point assessment organisations must now request apprenticeship certificates from the SFA, which will contact them directly with details of the process.

However, for apprentices completing an apprenticeship framework, providers will still need to apply to FISSS for certificates, with the last ones expected to be issued in 2021/2022.

A DfE spokesperson said: “Giving the SFA the responsibility for issuing certificates for apprenticeship standards will streamline the process and we have been working with FISSS through the transition.

“The SFA has also contacted all organisations on the register of apprentice assessment organisations to inform them of the change.”

Mark Froud, managing director of FISSS, said: “We wish the SFA well with this important service and hope they exceed the high service standards we deliver for framework certification.”