Third of apprentices on standards not ready for planned end-point assessment in 2017/18

One-third of apprentices on standards were not ready for their planned end-point assessment last year, the government has revealed.

The Department for Education released the national achievement rate tables for 2017/18 last week which showed the slower than expected pace at which learners are completing the training part of the new “more rigorous” apprenticeships.

For apprentices on the old-style frameworks, just 10 per cent had to continue and achieve in the year after their anticipated end-year.

It makes it extremely difficult to plan and could result in difficult-to-manage spikes in demand

But for those on standards, a huge 34 per cent who were expected to complete in 2017/18 have continued into 2018/19.

The figure matches information that FE Week has been given recently, that there is a major problem brewing of apprentices on standards not being ready for gateway and end-point assessment.

The gateway is the point at which the training finishes and assessment begins for apprenticeship standards.

Graham Hasting-Evans, group managing director of NOCN, an EPAO for 47 standards, said the government’s analysis “strikes a chord with our own experiences”, adding that his organisation is “currently seeing on average around three- to four-month delays, which means many people moving back a reporting year”.

This has “considerable implications for EPAOs,” he told FE Week.

“It makes it extremely difficult to plan, could result in difficult-to-manage spikes in demand when the apprenticeships start to come through and also add to the finance burden for EPAOs, as payment is moved back. Hopefully, this will settle down after another year.”

Cindy Rampersaud, senior vice president for BTECs and apprenticeships at Pearson, which is the EPAO for 27 standards, said the “non-preparedness of apprentices for gateway and EPA is largely a result of the market still being in transition as the apprenticeships model moves from frameworks to standards”.

“In delivering EPAs, we have experienced instances where the apprentices have not been ready for gateway or EPA and we have pushed back on EPA dates to give sufficient preparation time to the apprentices so as not to disadvantage them,” she added.

Kelle McQuade, head of end-point assessment at Training Qualifications UK, which does the EPAO for 30 standards, echoed Hasting-Evans’ concerns and said her organisation is finding that gateway dates are being delayed “for a variety of reasons”.

Cindy Rampersaud

“Late engagement between EPAOs and training providers/employers has a knock-on effect with knowledge and understanding,” she told FE Week. “It can be difficult because until they approach us to register learners, we don’t always know who they are. Sometimes there is no time between an employer selecting us to be their EPAO and apprentices being ready for assessment.

“With many training providers piloting EPAOs and no set rules about when registrations must happen, providers are often leaving it late giving us little time to prepare.”

She added that there is also an “overall nervousness about putting apprentices forward in this new world as there is a fear of failure”.

End-point assessment is designed to be a more rigorous and costly process than the sign-off in the old apprenticeship frameworks.

Therefore, the aim at the gateway decision point is to put forward only people who are expected to at least pass, demonstrating the appropriate level of knowledge, competencies and behaviours.

The sign-off is a joint one by the training provider and the employer, whereas under the frameworks it was just the training provider.

“As a result of this fundamental change it is our experience that training providers and employers are being more cautious about putting people forward,” Hasting-Evans explained.

“The high cost of EPA and hence the high cost of re-sits is a factor in this.”