IfA director role like ‘hand grenade with pin removed’, AELP warns

The director of assessment role for the new Institute for Apprenticeships has been likened to “a hand grenade with the pin removed”, by the head of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers.

Mark Dawe, chief executive of AELP, said in an exclusive FE Week webinar today he felt sorry for whoever takes on the new post, also warning that the government should not “duplicate” the job of qualifications regulator Ofqual.

Speaking on the responsibilities of the IfA, Mr Dawe said: “I imagine anyone taking on this role will feel like they have been handed a hand grenade with the pin removed.

“But the actual leg work – we don’t understand why that isn’t given to the government agency that’s there with the expertise in assessment, and that’s Ofqual.”

He said there were still many discussions to be had on the end-point assessment of apprenticeships, around whether it will be “valid, reliable, manageable across all the standards” and whether there are “actually organisations to do it”.

“We’ve heard maybe 50 per cent – maybe more than 50 per cent now – of standards have an EPA organisation,” Mr Dawe said.

“But you talk to those EPA organisations and a lot of them aren’t going to be ready for 12 months to actually deliver it.”
He added: “They [the government] could make their lives a lot easier if they just didn’t duplicate and actually commissioned Ofqual to do the work that’s needed.”

It is not the first time Mr Dawe has raised concerns about the Institute’s handling of assessment.

When the Department for Education published its Draft Strategic Guidance for the IfA earlier this month, Mr Dawe responded by saying: “Big questions remain on standards and assessment, which is why AELP is calling for a complete pause on the whole process. 

“In our view, there would be much less cause for confusion if Ofqual was given the overarching role on assessment on behalf of the IfA.”

FE Week questioned the DfE on why Ofqual would not be taking up this responsibility, but the department would not be drawn on the issue.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We believe that the SFA is best placed to maintain the Register of Apprenticeship Assessment Organisations and has significant experience in quality assuring organisations to deliver services.

“We continue to work with all organisations who have a role to play in assuring the quality of apprenticeships in England.”

She added: “We are also consulting on how the IfA should carry out its functions.

“The consultation closes at the end of January and we will consider responses carefully.”

An Ofqual spokesperson was similarly reticent.

He said: “Supporting the development of high quality end point assessments is a priority for Ofqual in 2017.

“We are already working closely with the DfE, IfA, SFA and others to establish the optimum arrangements for maintaining standards. We will not be responding to the consultation.”

The webinar was hosted by FE Week editor Nick Linford, and conducted in partnership with NCFE.