The below post features details of updates issued from both the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE)  about a number of topics: 

  • functional skills requirements
  • certificate Gateway evidence requirements
  • break in learning/extension (and pauses in EPA)
  • alternatives to observations

Functional Skills requirements

Previously, level 2 (intermediate) apprenticeships required apprentices to study towards, and attempt, the English and maths functional skills assessments at level 2. This was in addition to having achieved these qualifications at level 1. 

In light of Ofqual’s approach to assessment for vocational and technical skills during the outbreak, as well as the fact that scheduled functional skills assessments are not taking place, the rule regarding functional skills at level 2 has been temporarily suspended. 

This means that apprentices who are due to take their End-Point Assessment up until 31st July 2020 can be passed through Gateway without attempting the level 2 functional skills English and maths assessment. 

Level 2 apprentices still require a level 1 functional skills in English and/or maths in order to complete apprenticeship, and apprentices undertaking a level 3 or higher apprenticeship still need to hold or achieve an approved level 2 functional skills English and maths qualification. 

A record should be kept by providers if a level 2 apprentice did not take the level 2 assessments during this time. There will be no requirement for those apprentices who are passed through gateway to go back and take the level 2 functional skills test.

For all level 2 apprentices progressing through gateway during this period please download the TQUK “Attempt Level 2 Functional Skills” document, which will be available on VERVE EPA from tomorrow, and use this to upload as gateway evidence in place of the usually required attempt evidence.

This position will be reviewed by the ESFA in July 2020 and a decision on whether it will be continued will be made. We will keep you up to date with any further changes to this position. 

Apprentices undertaking a level 3 or higher apprenticeship are still required to hold or achieve an approved level 2 functional skills English and maths qualification, before they can successfully complete their apprenticeship.

Certificate Gateway evidence requirements

As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, it may not be possible for awarding organisations to issue certificates confirming that an apprentice has completed the necessary qualifications for Gateway. 

The ESFA has now provided guidance that enables providers and employers to accept a confirmation email from their awarding organisation as evidence of achievement. This email must contain the following information to be considered authentic: 

  • learner details
  • certificate run date
  • unique number

All such confirmation emails can simply be uploaded to Verve, alongside all other gateway required documents. This will then be reviewed by the EPA Team.

Alternatively, we will also accept a screen shot from the Awarding Organisations system, again confirming the aforementioned details.

Break in learning/extension (and pauses in EPA)

Please allow us to provide further clarity, as needed, to the above terms in relation to COVID-19.

Break in Learning

A break in learning occurs when there is disruption to an apprentice’s programme and they need to take a break from their learning (or assessment). At this time, if this break is to be less than 4 weeks, neither the Training Provider nor the Employer needs to record this and both the apprentice’s planned end date and ESFA payment terms remain the same.

Where this break is to last 4 or more weeks, Training Providers/Employers are required to formally record this as a break in learning on the ILR. In such instances, the payment of funding to the Training Provider will be suspended for the duration of the break in learning. 

A break in learning can occur pre or post Gateway. 

EPA Extension

Whilst we are taking all necessary action and working closely with IfATE and individual External Quality Assurance (EQA) Providers to apply approved flexibilities and/or alterations to enable assessments to continue, this is not possible in all situations or for all standards. Therefore, where an apprentice is passed through gateway but cannot complete all or part of their End-Point Assessment, Training Providers should record a break in learning where the delay in assessments is likely to be greater than 4 weeks. 

Where a standard’s assessment plan details a specific time period for which all assessment components must be completed within, an extension can be applied of up to 12 weeks. Where TQUK is the named End-Point Assessment Organisation, we will take responsibility for recording this extension automatically and Providers do not need to make individual requests to us for this to be applied. All such records will be made available to the relevant EQA upon request.

EPA Pause

This additional term is applied by TQUK in instances whereby the assessment plan includes an assessment which takes place over a period of time and is started but is currently unable to be completed.

For example, a work-based project which is completed post gateway over a specified period of time. An apprentice may have commenced this assessment but, due to factors associated with COVID-19, they are currently unable to complete within the outlined time period. 

In these situations, we request Training Providers complete and submit a provided “Pause in Assessment” form. This confirms that the EPA clock for this assessment is “paused” and verifies that the apprentice will not continue to work on the assessment during this paused period. When the apprentice is able to commence once more, Training Providers should contact TQUK to update us so that we can resume the EPA clock and seek to complete the assessment within the detailed time frame.

Depending upon the standard and length of this pause, TQUK may also record this as an Extension and Training Providers may also be required to record as a break in learning, if longer than 4 weeks. 

For all other delays to assessments which are not associated with COVID-19,  Providers should continue to make requests in line with our Reasonable Adjustments and Special Consideration policy. 

Alternatives to observations

As indicated above we are working closely with IfATE, EQA providers and indeed other EPOAs to seek greater opportunities for assessment flexibility to enable more assessments to continue to take place. This includes where appropriate temporary alternative assessments to Observations. IfATE have launched a series of Task Force meetings to focus on specific standards where it is felt that such alternatives could safely be implemented without impacting upon the credibility of the EPA. 

To date we have provided updates to registered centres for the following three Healthcare standards that a Reflective statement with 30 min Q&A session can be used as an alternative to Observation during COVID-19:

  • Healthcare Support Worker
  • Senior Healthcare Support Worker
  • Healthcare Assistant Practitioner

Due to the speed in which these meetings need to take place, it is not possible to include all EPAOs in each and every meeting, and whilst we are active in some, we await updates to be communicated from others.

We can however at this time indicate that such a meeting has today taken place for Customer Service standards at both levels 2 & 3, and last week for Hospitality & Catering standards and we hope to provide you an update imminently on any agreed alternatives. Similarly we are involved in this meeting for the Teaching Assistant standard on Friday. 

As per our update on Friday, all approved EPAOs for the Hair Professional standard have concluded that there is no viable alternative and that delay remains the only option at this time. 

We will continue to provide all such updates as these are confirmed to us and commit to being operationally live with any replacement assessments in a timely manner. 


This is a collaborative statement from End-point Assessment Organisations within the hairdressing, barbering and beauty therapy services sector.

City & Guilds, VTCT and Training Qualifications UK have been working collaboratively and after much deliberation we have agreed by consensus that delay for practical observation is the only appropriate mitigation during the current COVID-19 situation for the Hair Professional and Beauty Professional standards.

Practical observation is a critical part of the End-point Assessment which ensures that the Apprentice is safe to progress into employment and to provide services to the public. Our joint priority is to ensure that we all continue to follow government guidelines to support public health.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), UK and EU governments have stressed the importance of social distancing to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. Best practice requires at least six-feet or 2m distance between yourself and others. In the hairdressing, barbering and beauty therapy industries all of our services involve close ‘human to human’ contact. Keeping everyone safe will always remain a priority. We are innovative and dynamic and we will continue to support each other in rebuilding our wonderful industry.

The collaborative statement is fully supported by both the Hair Professional and Beauty Professional Steering Groups. This current position will be continually under review and VTCT will keep you all updated with any further developments.

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