The government has rejected a call from an influential parliamentary group for at least one end-point assessment organisation to be in place before an apprentice can start on a standard.
The refusal came as part of its response to a Commons select committee report on apprenticeships, published this morning.
The original report, published in March by the former sub-committee for education, skills and the economy, recommended that “standards should have at least one approved assessment organisation in place before they can be delivered”.
But the government argued this would be “counter-productive”, and said that “98.9 per cent of all apprentices due to complete by March 2018 have an EPA organisation in place”.
It also claimed that “all apprenticeship standards will have an EPA organisation available before apprentices reach their end-point assessment – particularly as many of these apprenticeships will take several years to complete”.
This appeared to contradict recent warnings from sector leaders that the first wave of apprentices were reaching the end of their courses without a final test in place.
Sue Pember, director of policy at Holex, told FE Week last month that she was aware of apprentices who had finished their programmes but had “been unable to complete and qualify” due to a lack of anyone to deliver the final assessment.
FE Week analysis of apprenticeship starts in 2016/17 revealed that the proportion on standards without an EPA organisation in place had fallen – from 10 per cent in 2015/16, to three per cent in 2016/17.
But because the overall numbers were up, so too was the number of apprentices on courses without assessors – from 450 who started in 2015/16, to 790 in 2016/17.
The sub-committee report, which was formed from the education and business select committees and was chaired by former MPs Iain Wright and Neil Carmichael (pictured above), gave a total of 36 conclusions relating to all aspects of the apprenticeships programme.
A number of them focused on the need for further measures of success, beyond the 3 million starts target, to create a greater focus on quality.
These included a call for “far clearer outcome measures for individual apprentices”, including “programme completion, progression to higher levels and subsequent achievement of secure relevant employment”.
In response the government said it would be publishing an annual report based on the “high-level indicators of success” outlined in its benefits strategy earlier this year, with the first report due “late 2017”.
The government also rejected a number of recommendations that called for changes to important aspects of the reform programme.
These included the recommendation that Ofqual should externally quality assure all EPAs – although the government said it would “keep the implementation of external quality assurance under review”.
And in response to the recommendation that the government “explore ways of restructuring the levy on a sectoral and regional basis” it said a “single national rate maintains simplicity and clarity for all employers”.