Vocational Qualifications team at Annual Apprenticeships Conference
On 17 March Bryan Horne, Associate Director of Standards for Vocational Qualifications and Apprenticeships and I, ran a workshop on end point assessment in apprenticeships at FE Week’s Annual Apprenticeship Conference (AAC), at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Birmingham. Others on the bill included Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow Minister for Skills, and Sir Michael Wilshaw, HM Chief Inspector of Schools – the conference is an important opportunity for influencers and policy makers across the apprenticeships world.
Our workshop focussed on end-point assessments (EPAs), and our role in assuring the standards of these within the new reformed apprenticeships. The Trailblazers, which are responsible for developing the standards for the new apprenticeships, will need to choose the external quality assurance arrangements that apply to the apprenticeships they are developing. Regulation by Ofqual is one option.
Where we regulate EPAs we will, because of our remit, regulate them as qualifications - and all the assessment bodies offering them will have to be regulated awarding organisations. This will help employers to be confident that the knowledge and skills required for a specific apprenticeship are assessed in a valid and reliable way.
By valid, we mean ensuring that the right thing is assessed, in the right way, to produce accurate assessment results. Validity is the degree to which it is possible to measure what needs to be measured by implementing an assessment procedure. Given that an EPA will be done at the end of the apprenticeship, it will need to be designed to test the skills and knowledge an apprentice has learned and how they fit together.
Apprentices may want to use their EPA certificate as recognition of their achievements to allow them to move jobs and progress in their careers. And employers may want to be able to compare people with the same end-point assessments, including those taken with different assessment bodies. We will therefore require assessment organisations to promote consistency in the standards of regulated EPAs. During the presentation we suggested ways in which EPAs could be designed to best achieve reliability and comparability - in the sense that they constitute important sources of evidence of validity.
Towards the end of our presentation we had an interesting conversation about the assessment of behaviour. We know that, for many occupations and employers, it is important that apprentices can demonstrate the right attitudes and behaviours. But it can be difficult to assess behaviours reliably and comparably, as we would expect of any EPAs that we regulate. So Trailblazers face some choices here. We will be happy to discuss with Trailblazers who are interested in behaviours, their expectations of their assessments, and whether Ofqual regulation is the right choice for them.
By continuing to actively engage with Trailblazers and employers through our regulatory activity, we intend to help make sure that reformed apprenticeships are supported by high quality assessments, so that employers, apprentices and the wider public can have confidence in them.
Take a look at our presentation slides from the conference.
(A video of Bryan Horne which was previously linked from this blog has been removed as it does not reflect the current state of end-point assessments.)