‘Morally wrong’ – says former top BIS official over unknown apprenticeship end-point assessments

A former civil servant at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), has challenged the head of the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and Education Funding Agency (EFA) – saying it is “morally wrong” to start an apprentice on a course without knowing what the end-point assessment will be.

Dr Susan Pember, who worked as a senior civil servant at BIS for 12 years – including six years focused on FE funding, spoke out against Peter Lauener, chief executive of the SFA and EFA, over the lack of clarity around end-point assessment for apprenticeships.

Dr Pember said: “I think it’s really morally wrong to start an apprentice on a programme when you don’t know how they are going to be tested at the end.

“You wouldn’t start somebody on the equivalent of an A-level without knowing the assessment at the end.”

She added that she felt the new infrastructure being developed by BIS and the SFA, with a new set of providers that only offer end-testing, is “open to fraud” and “misuse”.

The comments came in a debate at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) annual conference on June 28, and Dr Pember’s remark elicited a round of applause from the audience of delegates.

In response to a subsequent audience question on how to avoid providers teaching for these end-tests, Mr Lauener described end-assessment as “the servant of the process, not the master”.

This was then disputed by Mark Dawe, chief executive of AELP, who said: “You can say that but it never happens.

“The end-point assessment drives behaviour and you will get teaching to the test.”

He added: “The whole thing around end-point assessment … I just think is a nightmare.

“I have heard it in so many corners now that it is a car crash that is going to happen.”

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  1. I am not sure how many apprenticeship Assessment Plans Dr Pember has read in detail, however the vast majority do outline the expectations for end point assessment and it is the approved Apprenticeship Assessment Organisations (AAOs)who will take ‘professional’ responsibility for ensuring the quality of validity, reliability and consistency in the application of the process. It is disingenuous to suggest AAOs most of whom are regulated Awarding Organisations are going to allow misuse or fraudulent practice to take place under their watch, however I do agree the Government could be doing more to encourage Awarding Organisations whose core business is ‘independent assessment’ to get involved in the design and development of high quality end point assessments. Mr Dawe was CEO of a very large and respected AO, he knows what valid assessment is all about and how they should be developed so by all means question the Gov’t strategy for EPA design but please do not question the integrity of ALL the prospective providers of EPA until you have seen the finished articles.