Ofqual to audit EPAOs amid ‘capacity and capability’ concerns

Ofqual will soon begin auditing apprenticeship end-point assessment organisations to find out how they are mitigating risks around the capacity and capability of assessors.

The exams regulator today confirmed its approach to its external quality assurance of EPAs, by publishing a final set of rules.

The conditions and guidance, which come into force tomorrow, will lead to Ofqual carrying out audits of end-point assessment organisations to fish out any issues with examiners.

It comes after chief regulator Sally Collier (pictured) said she was concerned about assessor capacity and capability at the AELP conference last month.

She made a plea for delegates to help keep tabs on EPAs by joining an expert panel that looks into their technical problems.

“With these rules in place, we are now beginning a programme of work on the delivery of EPAs,” Ofqual said today.

“This will include a programme of audits to help understand how the EPAOs we regulate are mitigating risks around the capacity and capability of EPA assessors.

“Where an apprenticeship trailblazer group has selected Ofqual as the external quality assurer for its apprenticeship standard, all EPAOs offering EPAs for that standard must be (or become) Ofqual-regulated and all EPAs must meet these new conditions and our general conditions of recognition.”

The regulator reiterated, as Ms Collier did at the AELP conference, that it was not “lowering the recognition bar”.

It has instead “streamlined our recognition process for organisations seeking to offer EPAs, and we will be publishing further information in the coming weeks so that all organisations are able to decide at an early stage whether Ofqual regulation is for them”.

Today’s published set of rules include a number of amendments to original proposals following a two-month consultation earlier this year.

Included is a change which allows some parts of the EPA to take place at the training centre where the apprentice studied, as well as clarity around what end-point assessment organisations must contain and how specifications must be published.

Ofqual has so far been asked to provide external quality assurance for 55 apprenticeship standards – with another 37 in the pipeline.

As an EQA, the exams regulator also includes a technical evaluation of a proposed EPAs, to ensure that EPAOs have “interpreted assessment plans correctly and consistently so that employers get what they want and expect from the assessments”.

Ofqual has looked at 19 EPAs so far and asked EPAOs to make changes where required.

EQA providers oversee EPA assessment procedures and employer groups who develop new apprenticeships can choose the body that regulates their standards.

They can opt for one of four different EQA options: Ofqual, the Institute for Apprenticeships, a professional body, or an employer designed option.