A former civil servant at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), has challenged the head of the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and Education Funding Agency (EFA) – saying it is “morally wrong” to start an apprentice on a course without knowing what the end-point assessment will be.

Dr Susan Pember, who worked as a senior civil servant at BIS for 12 years – including six years focused on FE funding, spoke out against Peter Lauener, chief executive of the SFA and EFA, over the lack of clarity around end-point assessment for apprenticeships.

Dr Pember said: “I think it’s really morally wrong to start an apprentice on a programme when you don’t know how they are going to be tested at the end.

“You wouldn’t start somebody on the equivalent of an A-level without knowing the assessment at the end.”

She added that she felt the new infrastructure being developed by BIS and the SFA, with a new set of providers that only offer end-testing, is “open to fraud” and “misuse”.

The comments came in a debate at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) annual conference on June 28, and Dr Pember’s remark elicited a round of applause from the audience of delegates.

In response to a subsequent audience question on how to avoid providers teaching for these end-tests, Mr Lauener described end-assessment as “the servant of the process, not the master”.

This was then disputed by Mark Dawe, chief executive of AELP, who said: “You can say that but it never happens.

“The end-point assessment drives behaviour and you will get teaching to the test.”

He added: “The whole thing around end-point assessment … I just think is a nightmare.

“I have heard it in so many corners now that it is a car crash that is going to happen.”