In October 2016 the then-chief executive of the ESFA boasted about how hard it was for organisations to get onto their apprenticeship register of end-point assessment organisations.
As we reported at the time, Peter Lauener told the education select committee that just 21 applications out of 161 had been successful, explaining: “The quality of the end-point assessment is absolutely critical to the quality of the apprenticeship.”
So it should come as a surprise to find that since Lauener’s retirement, the ESFA appear to have dramatically changed their approach.
In what appears to be a deliberate attempt to expand the pool of assessors in the wake of concern there are not enough, the most recent round of successful applicants takes the list to over 200 and includes a council employee that applied as a sole trader as well as two guys that incorporated a limited company last August and have yet to trade or even leave their day jobs.
Our findings, ahead of the National Audit Office report on apprenticeship oversight due out next week, should raise serious questions, including:
- Why is a funding agency responsible for determining the suitability of assessment organisations? It makes no sense.
- Why is it acceptable that someone can join the register without any trading history given the ESFA no longer allows for this on their provider register? It makes no sense.
- Why is it called a register of organisations when they let on sole traders? It makes no sense.
- Why do end-point assessment organisations answer to dozens of different external quality assurance bodies approved not by the ESFA or Ofqual, but by the Institute for Apprenticeships. It makes no sense.
- Why is Institute for Apprenticeships, not Ofqual, the regulatory body for end-point-assessment? It makes no sense.
- Why is the Institute for Apprenticeships the regulator and for many standards also responsible for external quality assurance of assessment organisations?
Regulating yourself makes no sense.
It will be interesting to see how many of these assessment related issues get picked apart next week in the NAO report.
Either way, with the pipeline of end-point assessments now starting to swell, if this does not start making more sense there is a real risk that the whole system could be undermined and come crashing down.