End Point Assessment

by Simon Sharp, CIEA Chair

CIEA members working in Apprenticeships will be aware that, like other parts of our public qualifications system, they are undergoing major reform. A key part of that is the introduction of ‘End Point Assessment’ (EPA). The agenda for reform stems from the ‘Richard Review of Apprenticeships’, published in 2012, the recommendations from which the Coalition Government supported.

People working in schools and colleges and assessing students aged up to 18 might be asking: why is this of interest to or relevant to me? To answer that, take a look at the reasons given for the move to EPA. They echo those we heard when changes were made to GCSE and GCE qualifications.

Accomplishments must be robustly tested and validated…Continuous and time-consuming assessment, driven by paper-based tests, accumulated ‘evidence’ and assessors with a vested interest in apprentices passing the test, demeans the apprentice’s accomplishment. Instead, there needs to be a test that demonstrates that the apprentice can take the knowledge and expertise they have gained and apply it in a real-world context to a new, novel problem. The final test and validation must be holistic, in that it seeks to test the full breadth of the relevant competencies not merely the incremental progression of the apprentice. - (Richard Review, P8/9)

Under the new assessment arrangements, all apprentices must undertake an independent EPA which is a synoptic assessment of the knowledge, skills and behaviours that have been learnt throughout the apprenticeship. The EPA is taken by apprentices at the very end of the on-programme phase of training when their employer (and in some cases their training provider) is satisfied that they have met certain ‘gateway’ criteria - meaning they are ready to undertake the assessment. EPAs are graded, and an apprenticeship certificate is only awarded after the EPA is successfully completed.

An EPA can include several elements. For example, an apprentice may be required to undertake an online multiple-choice assignment, an interview with an experienced practitioner, be observed making a product or repairing a defective piece of equipment or solving work-place problem scenarios. Sometimes apprentices must submit a diary of work that they have completed, a portfolio record of their work projects or prepare a presentation showcase of their work to a panel of experts. The assessment techniques chosen reflect the type of work undertaken and can simulate what happens in the workplace.

So the advent of EPA will create challenges for those preparing apprentices. But it will pose even greater challenges to those responsible for designing and quality assuring EPAs that enable all the knowledge, understanding and skills gained throughout the apprenticeship programme to be assessed in valid, reliable and consistent ways. That is a big ask and one that will require significant assessment expertise. Employers and apprentices alike will rightly be expecting training providers, awarding organisations and Ofqual to ensure that EPAs meet the high expectations set for them.

If any CIEA members are engaged in developing EPAs, please share your experiences as it would be good to hear how this initiative is working in practice.

For more information - the DfE and Education and Training Foundation sponsor a programme about EPA. Find out more about Future Apprenticeships.