The Institute for Apprenticeships continues to be the dominant external quality assurance (EQA) provider of choice for most Trailblazer groups – even though it describes itself as the “option of last resort”.

As a result, concerns are deepening across the sector that the government’s own EQA regulator is regulating itself, a situation that Graham Hasting-Evans, managing director of NOCN, described as “bizarre”, calling on the minister “to step back and rethink before we dig a pit we cannot then get out of”.

In the most recent publication of standards that have been approved for delivery, five of the six standards published in August all chose the IfA to provide their external quality assurance, while the remaining standard selected its own professional body.

These latest standards take the Institute’s tally to 35, nearly double that of the next most popular option, Ofqual, which has 19.

Surprisingly, since FE Week reported in March that the Institute was by far the most popular choice, its share of the EQA market has actually increased from 16 per cent to 19 per cent, during which time an additional 21 standards were approved.

In total, 35 organisations or boards are represented in the choices for external quality assurance provision, although the majority of those organisations have been selected by four or fewer standards so far.

The Digital Industries Apprenticeship External Quality Assurance Board holds 13 standards, while the Food and Drink Industry Skills Partnership Apprenticeship Board and the Hospitality Apprenticeship Board hold five each.

One third of all standards that are approved for delivery are still awaiting confirmation for their particular external quality assurance provider.

Earlier this month, the Institute announced that Open Awards had won the tender to provide external quality assurance services on behalf of the Institute.  Although it is unlikely that learners on these newly approved standards would fall under the existing term of that contract, which is due to run from August 1, 2017, until March 31, 2018.

Mr Hasting-Evans told FE Week that the current approach to QA and regulation is “cumbersome, expensive and in danger of creating inconsistency in quality”.

“As concerning is that many standards are at present opting for the IfA, when in fact it still does not have a permanent CEO and it not yet equipped to undertake this role. 

“However the reality from the DfE’s own figures is that next year there will be very few apprenticeship end-point assessments to be quality-assured.

“Accordingly we believe the government should halt any further implementation instead over the next year establish a single set of QA rules and regulations, and carry out an independent review to define a common efficient EQA delivery model.”

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