Chris Cherry provides key insights that will avoid misunderstanding and poor practice

In the world of apprenticeship standards, the gateway is the door between the two core stages of the apprenticeship – the on-programme training and the end-point assessment. The apprentice passes through the gate when they have met minimum requirements and are performing consistently at (or above) the level of competence expected for that occupation.

At the gateway (the end of the training period), the employer in consultation with the training provider, unlatches the gate because they believe the apprentice is competent in the occupation and ready to demonstrate this during the end-point assessment.

But how do you really know when the apprentice is ready?

It’s a question we’ve been asked a lot, from our work with over 5,000 apprenticeship practitioners. So, here’s a few insights to get you thinking.

Let’s start with the mandatory gateway requirements

Mandatory requirements are different in each assessment plan. Here are a few common examples:

• achievement of level 1 English and mathematics and evidence of attempting a level 2 test
• achievement of a required qualification (particularly in regulated occupations)
• completion of a workplace portfolio
• a letter signed by the employer confirming readiness for assessment
• apprentice self-assessment.

It’s important that you are in close contact with the End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) to make the gateway decision. Some training providers have wrongly assumed that the gateway is an opportunity to check with the EPAO whether the apprentice is ready for assessment. This is not the case, and you won’t be able to submit evidence to the EPAO to check in advance. This cuts across independence and opens the door for misunderstanding and poor practice. EPAOs are encouraged to provide guidance on how to manage the gateway.

In some assessment plans, there are tasks that the apprentice needs to complete during training, or during a gateway period, which then feed into final assessment. These could be a project, presentation or portfolio.

It’s worth remembering that the gateway is not the point where the employer feels the apprentice is guaranteed to pass, but where further training would not make the apprentice more assessment-ready. Holding back on readiness could have the reverse effect on performance. There are issues of timing and funding for the training provider that may influence the gateway, but in pure teaching and learning terms, assessment should quickly follow the completion of training when the apprentice is performing at (or above) the required standard of competence.

“OK,” you may say, “but what about the apprentice’s level of competence?”

As you reach the end of training, you will get – using your professional judgement – a sense that the apprentice is ready.

Training providers take different approaches with their employers, but here are four linked questions that many have found useful in discovering whether the apprentice is gateway-ready.

• Is there sufficient evidence that the apprentice is ready?
• Is there a body of work you can reference that shows the apprentice has consistently been working towards the standard and is familiar and comfortable with the assessment methods used at the end-point?
• Does that evidence show achievement of the elements?
• Are you confident there is evidence the apprentice has gained each knowledge, skill and behavioural element that could be assessed at the end-point?
• Is there a certainty that achievement is at the level required?
• Do you and the employer both feel that the apprentice is able to work in that occupation, at the necessary performance level? It’s important that apprentices aren’t just being “trained to the test”.
• Do you consider the apprentice to be competent?

Once you are certain the above criteria have been met, you should feel confident that the apprentice will be able to demonstrate that competency.

It is at this point that the employer will be required to confirm their apprentice is ready. The EPAO will then check the evidence and open the gate to the end-point assessment.