What to Expect from External Quality Assurance

Jacqui Molkenthin, a former service delivery manager of a successful end-point assessment organisation, has pulled together some of her key experiences to produce a set of hints and tips. These are not exhaustive and are based purely on Jacqui’s experience of EQA by the IfA and Open Awards across 3 Standards. Some hints and tips may seem obvious but it never hurts to cross check. All the preparation work carried out prior to EQA must be mindful of the Funding Rules, Conditions for organisations on the register, the Standard and Assessment Plan, and EQA guidance documents and templates. If you would like support or further information, please do not hesitate to contact Jacqui.

  • Delivery – external quality assurance will encompass a desk top review and an on-site audit (if you are delivering). You may be subject to EQA even if you have not yet had any apprentices go through EPA. Some EQA requests may come at very short notice so make sure you have a clear and structured processes so that all documentation can be accessed at short notice.
  • EQA organisation requests - Make sure you complete the documentation requested by the EQA organisation. Open Awards, for example, has a spreadsheet that requires completion detailing forthcoming EPA activities. This is important as it enables the EQA organisation to plan EQA activities and visits, and also helps them to give you as much notice as possible for EQA visits.
  • Apprentices - Make sure you can evidence that the apprentice is at the heart of everything you do. For example, making sure the apprentice understands EPA in full, ensuring a robust gateway process, ensuring quality EPA assessment conditions, clear re-sit re-take policies, and making sure that timescales and schedules are realistic and achievable so that apprentices are not let down.
  • Policies – make sure you have a policy for everything, and make sure you have them all available, they will be checked by the EQA organisation. If you have any policies that may result in action, such as dealing with an apprentice appeal, make sure you have examples available. If there have not been any appeals be ready to explain how you ensure that you can operate your policy in practice.
  • Assessors – make sure you have a rigorous and robust recruitment, risk assessment, conflict of interest, training, contracting and monitoring process in place that has been used and not just a policy. This includes evidencing that the assessors have met the requirements detailed in the assessment plan, that there are no conflicts of interest and that assessment decisions are transparent and consistent across assessors.
  • EPA tools – make sure you have them all available, that they are easy to understand and map back to the Assessment plan (and Standard). Be ready to explain and evidence the process you went through to design and validate the EPA tools. It may also be helpful if one of the employers/sector experts involved in the design of the EPA tools is available to talk to the EQA organisation.
  • EPA pricing – be clear on the approach / methodology you take to pricing your EPA. This does not mean you need to show them your detailed financial workings but you need to be able to evidence that you are only including eligible costs within your EPA pricing approach / methodology.
  • Data protection and sharing – be clear on how you gather and retain details of apprentices, providers, assessors and any gateway checks, such as certificates, to maintain confidentiality.
  • Contracting – be ready to provide evidence of employer selection and lead provider contracts for the delivery of EPA.
  • ESFA requirements – collate the returns you have submitted to the ESFA as part of the Conditions for organisations on the register of end-point assessment organisations. The EQA organisation may wish to view them.
  • Continuous improvement – demonstrate how you gather feedback from employers, providers and apprentices and act on that feedback.
  • On-site audits (when the EQA organisation attends an EPA activity) -Make sure you have sorted access arrangements, for example, if permits are required for the EQA staff to access sites. Make sure the apprentices are aware, it may be daunting for an apprentice to have assessors and observers in an interview, for example. Make sure the assessors are ready, for example, will it be clear to the EQA organisation that the assessors are following your policies and fully understand the assessment tools and the requirements on them as assessors. Ensure that all EPA activities and facilities are in line with the assessment plan requirements and that you have followed your policies when scheduling and delivering EPA.

I hope that these observations are a useful insight to EQA. Please remember that this is not an EQA checklist, all preparation for EQA must take account of the documentation mentioned at the beginning of this article. If you are interested in independent impartial compliance checks prior to EQA, please do not hesitate to contact Jacqui.

This article was written by Jacqui Molkenthin; check out her profile on our experts page.