Readiness of end-point assessment organisations is currently in the spotlight, with strict timeframes post approval for systems, processes, tools and guidance to be ready. At application you will have provided a lot of information about capacity and capability. Readiness is about turning that into reality with proven staff resources, systems, processes, procedures, employer/apprentice/provider support materials, and assessment materials to deliver robustly and effectively. Your External Quality Assurance Organisation will check your state of readiness and will report back to the IfA and ESFA. If you are not ready for delivery, you are at risk of removal from the register of end-point assessment organisations.
To try and support readiness, I have written down some hints and tips from my experience for you to consider. If you would like to find out more or receive support in getting ready for end-point assessment delivery, please do get in touch with me.
Administrative systems and infrastructure: establish a clear vision and governance structure; understand your market (employers, apprentice volumes, geography etc); ensure sufficient internal and assessor staffing resource (including forward plan); design staff, assessor, and lead provider contracts specific to EPA (do not assume you can just use existing contract wording); be clear on assessor requirements and your risk assessment, approval and monitoring of assessors; design cost models and establish financial systems; establish apprentice registration, EPA tracking* and certification systems (certification is via the ESFA but you will be inputting the data); embed data protection, security and sharing policies and procedures into your entire delivery model; write policies, procedures and processes for all aspects of delivery (eg, appeals, complaints, malpractice, conflict of interest, reasonable adjustments, safeguarding, equality) and make sure they can be delivered, for example, you will need to be able to demonstrate how you deal with malpractice not just that you have a policy defining it; develop a marketing plan and associated resources.
Internal quality assurance: This is critical to effective delivery and continuous improvement. Do not view IQA as a paper-based tick box exercise. Make sure you have an IQA policy and nominated responsible officer and that the IQA approach feeds back into to governance structure. Make sure the policy includes monitoring, standardisation and actions as a result of IQA. All though not specified in the Conditions, I would recommend a clear self-assessment process with some dedicated Key Performance Indicators.
End-point assessment support materials: Issuing the assessment plan to customers is not sufficient to demonstrate you have provided ‘support materials’. You will need to design materials suitable to a range of audiences (apprentices, employers, providers, assessors) that interprets the assessment plan whilst remaining true to its intent. This may be guides to EPA, one-page flyers per EPA activity, introductory webinars on EPA and so on. Your website will also be a great asset for support and advice (and a repository for key documents such as your policies). Although you are not responsible for confirming the apprentice readiness at gateway, you will need to be clear to all customers on the gateway requirements, this may include physical checks on the maths and English certificates, for example.
Assessment instruments: Do not assume that the assessment plan is sufficient for assessors to make grading judgements, even with the most recent, more detailed, assessment plans. All assessors will require clear assessment tools and associated assessment guidance documents from you. You will need to work with sector experts to design robust assessment tools and guidance from the assessment plan, which may include grading grids for some assessment plans, that enables your assessors to assess consistently, and for the assessment judgements to be clear, rigorous, robust and stand up to challenge. You must be able to show how you have developed these and how you have tested them to make sure they are fit for purpose, and how you will continue to review them to ensure they remain fit for purpose.
For help and advice, or more information, please do not hesitate to contact Jacqui.
* note - when thinking about registration and tracking, there are many service providers out there offering excellent IT based systems. From personal experience, if you are new to end-point assessment, what you think you need when designing your service and the reality of what you need once the first cohorts have gone through is usually different so I would recommend understanding what you need before committing to a service provider. But don’t let that put you off as IT based systems to support registration, tracking, monitoring, standardisation, scheduling etc are invaluable and they are getting better and better as the entire industry learns from the delivery of the new Standards.
This article was written by Jacqui Molkenthin; check out her profile on our expertspage.