The government has finally reintroduced a flexibility that allows apprentices to take their end-point assessment (EPA) before their English and maths functional skills test.

Updated Department for Education guidance, published today, says this this can be applied to “eligible” apprentices from February 25.

To be eligible, apprentices and providers must have “exhausted all possibilities to access functional skills assessment via face-to-face and remote assessment, and they have confirmed their intent to continue and complete their functional skills within three months of starting their EPA”.

Confirmation of this must “also be evidenced in the learner file/evidence pack”.

The DfE said this flexibility will be available until 31 May 2021.

FE Week first revealed the move was on the cards in October, but it has taken the DfE until now to roll out. This is despite thousands of apprentices being reportedly “stuck in limbo”, delaying their end-point assessment because they could not take their functional skills since September owing to Covid-19 restrictions.

Apprenticeships and skills minister Gillian Keegan said: “Our priority is making sure apprentices gain the skills they need to progress. That’s why we are introducing a new temporary flexibility which allows training providers and awarding organisations to deliver training and assessments to ensure apprentices can continue to progress.”


‘Apprentices must not be on a break in learning’

The rule was first put in place in May 2020 following the first national lockdown, but it only applied to those due to take their functional skills assessment up until the end of July that year.

Its reintroduction comes on the same day the government confirmed that teacher assessed grades can also be used for functional skills learners unable to take their assessment in person or remotely.

DfE’s guidance provides further details on the eligibility criteria.

It says that apprentice must not be on a break in learning; meet all other gateway criteria to progress to their EPA; have been confirmed by their provider and their employer as ready for both their EPA, and to take a functional skills qualification assessment; start their EPA on or before 31 May 2021.

Another existing flexibility – where the government has temporarily suspended the requirement for level 2 apprentices to study towards, and attempt level 2 functional skills assessments – remains available.

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