Opinion

Ofqual must work closely with employers for its bigger role in apprenticeships

23 Nov 2020, 5:00



The new system has the potential to strengthen the employer voice, but needs clear communication routes, writes Lee Pryor

The announcement that Ofqual will now be overseeing a significant number of apprenticeship standards has been greatly welcomed by institutions such as ours.

This is a significant move for organisations that provide end-point assessments and will not only ensure a smoother process but a more cost-effective, simpler and efficient one.

The end-point assessment model has been one of the government’s key reforms in recent years. However, we must not lose sight of the need to retain or consider employer choice and feedback in a competitive market place.

Employers need to be involved in developing policy, as they have been at the centre of creating apprenticeship standards in recent years.

Therefore, Ofqual needs to work in partnership with them and end-point assessment organisations to ensure continuity and consistency of the new policy framework.

The wide range of bodies involved over the years has proved disadvantageous to the overall process, so I suggest that a regular review of standards and systems takes place on an ongoing basis.

The assessment process should be reviewed at least every 12 months, to ensure that it is appropriate for new and existing apprenticeship standards and that all criteria reflect what is valued by employers and respective industries.

This will go a long way in helping address any irregularities or “developmental gaps” within Ofqual’s strategy.

It is a known fact that changes to assessment plans have resource implications for end-point assessment organisations as they have to adapt assessment methodologies, tools and guides.

It is important that a pragmatic strategy is applied that takes into account the employer and apprentice needs, as well as the end-point assessment organisation’s capabilities.

If Ofqual sets a framework of quality criteria, this could ensure coherence across the wider qualification landscape.

By working with the Department for Education to engage the end-point assessment organisation market early, with forthcoming standards and assessment plans, this could ensure that the assessment market is viable.

Sir Gerry Berragan, chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, said last year “it has never been more crucial that we ensure we have the best regime possible to assess quality”.

I agree entirely with this sentiment. We were in need of a system that doesn’t impose an undue burden on end-point assessment organisations and that is easy for all parties to understand and engage with.

The new system has the potential to strengthen the employer’s voice in external quality assurance. In the current system, around 30 per cent of apprenticeship standards have an employer-led approach to external quality assurance.

Ofqual needs to work with employers to ensure they gain the understanding required, and perhaps have a member of Ofqual on the trailblazer group.

This would allow for effective monitoring of apprentice assessment organisations, through external quality assurance organisations and agreeing necessary action on specific cases.

I suggest that a regular review of standards and systems takes place

Visibility of apprentices as a whole remains a problem when planning for end-point assessment – so this is an area that needs to be focused on when working with providers.

Ofqual will need to bear this in mind in their future plans, working closely with end-point assessment organisations and employers to ensure that this transition is seamless.

The delivery of this comes at a crucial time for apprenticeships and it is understandable that the transition will require a lot of work from Ofqual, particularly after the results debacle of last summer.

Nonetheless, if we really want a more skilled and efficient workforce, and a robust assessment strategy, more support is needed from the government to streamline the infrastructure and ensure Ofqual have adequate resources to oversee this policy.

It will be great to see end-point assessment organisations and Ofqual working together to create a strategy and policy framework that supports a strong and competitive marketplace of quality providers.



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