The government has launched a new programme to tackle the shortage of end-point assessors in apprenticeships, after FE Week reported that almost 60 per cent of apprenticeship standards cleared so far don’t have an approved assessment organisation.
The new large-scale scheme is funded by the Department for Education and commissioned by the Education and Training Foundation, with the aim of improving capacity to deliver independent end-point assessment in apprenticeships.
It will be co-managed by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers and the Strategic Development Network and ultimately will work towards building up to a critical mass of end-point assessors.
That’s out of 147 standards that have been granted final approval by the government and are therefore available for learners to start on.
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.”
However, from November, the DfE and ETF programme will look to address the problem by offering 15 workshop packages across the country, with the intention of helping organisations to understand the opportunities better and decide on their role in end-point assessment.
This will be followed by further workshops to help organisations become an approved Apprenticeship Assessment Organisation and prepare them to actually deliver the end-point assessment.
The first phase of the programme will include the development of eight industry-focused ‘Professional Dialogue Groups’ to explore the knowledge, skills and resources that are required by end-point assessors.
The findings will then be used in putting together guidance and materials for end-point assessors and will inform a programme of support to be rolled out in 2017.
“Organisations and individuals will need to develop their capacity, knowledge, skills and resources to deliver end-point assessment successfully.”
She added: “This programme has been designed to meet that need – supporting individuals to develop to become end-point assessors; and leaders / managers to develop their organisations to deliver end-point assessment.”
But unrest over end-point assessment remains rife in the sector at present, with the issue being raised in both a meeting of the Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy and at the Federation of Awarding Bodies conference just this week.
Peter Lauener, chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency, Education Funding Agency and the Institute for Apprenticeships, revealed to the Sub-Committee that the SFA has had to “knock-back” a number of applications to the register of apprenticeship assessment organisations because their plans for end-point assessment were not up to scratch.
Meanwhile Paul Eeles, the new chair of the FAB, called on Ofqual chief Sally Collier to play a stronger role in addressing the shortage of end-point assessment organisations.
Some may be encouraged by the fact that the new programme will be bringing together a wide range of partners in its attempt to tackle the issue, including the Association of Colleges, 157 Group, HOLEX (Dr Pember’s own organisation), the Federation of Industry Sector Skills and Standards, the University Vocational Awards Council, the Federation of Awarding Bodies, the Learning and Work Institute, City & Guilds and Cambridge Assessment.
The consortium will form an expert ‘Reference Group’ to advise on programme activities and content, to make sure the programme is relevant to all potential AAOs and staff.
Mike Cox, programme director at AELP, said: “We’re at a critical juncture in the apprenticeship reforms – an increasing number of apprentices are starting on the new standards, and frameworks are starting to be switched off.
“It is clear that significant end-point assessment capacity is required. The programme will help to drive this forward, ensuring high-quality AAOs are in place to meet demand and help secure the success of future apprenticeships.”
At £200 per person, interested organisations can book onto the first ‘Apprenticeship end-point assessment – deciding on your organisation’s involvement’ workshop packages here.