Firstly, we want to thank you for your patience over this past week. We are aware there has been much confusion around the lack of detail for the newly approved Hair Professional EPA discretion and the publication of some incorrect information. We have been working closely with Ofqual, IfATE and the other relevant EPAOs to agree the detail of this new discretion as well as the parameters for application/eligibility.

We are pleased to finally be able to share the detail of this with you!

It is important to note that EPA remains a mandatory part of the Hair Professional Apprenticeship programme and that in most instances it is expected that the EPA will continue to take place as per the current published assessment plan.

In March 2020 IfATE published a series of dispensations that further support the current plan to be deliverable. Whilst our experience proved that these options were not required for the vast majority of Apprentices, they do remain active as approved dispensations until at least the end of August 2021.

As we prepare for salons and close contact services to reopen on 12th April, we are also preparing to return to EPA delivery and have been accepting bookings for several weeks now. As noted above, we anticipate that for most Apprentices the current plan, along with previously approved dispensations where needed, will be sufficient to enable their EPA to be conducted in the usual manner.

The new discretion is in place purely to act as a safety net for where there is an exceptional circumstance that would prevent an Apprentice being able to undertake their EPA and therefore complete their Apprenticeship and is not an optional alternative.

New Discretion

Professional Discussion underpinned by package of evidence:

This will comprise of three core aspects:

  1. Package of Evidence
  2. Competency Statement
  3. Professional discussion

1. Package of Evidence

The Apprentice/provider must produce a package of information that shows evidence from the summative assessment. This will include a mapping document, utilising evidence provided from the Apprentices on programme learning, which is mapped to the knowledge skills and behaviours detailed on the EPA. As a minimum this should include:

  • A consultation record card/sheet if available
  • Observation records signed by the Apprentice and the on-program assessor
  • Any photographic or digital evidence supporting the Apprentice’s level of attainment if available
  • Where this discretion is used for a resit/retake of a failed assessment, the evidence package must include some evidence of further guided learning since the previous assessment was taken (e.g. signed statement from training provider).

2. Competency Statement

A joint statement of the Apprentice’s competence from the Employer and on-programme assessor. The accountability statement of the apprentice’s competence to include:

  1. technical skills
  2. Safe working practices (health and safety)
  3. ways of working
  4. customer service
  5. behaviour and communication
  6. professionalism and values

(Employer in this context can be an occupationally competent senior member of staff with direct experience of the Apprentice’s work).

3. Professional Discussion

This aspect is used to confirm the Apprentice’s skills, knowledge, and behaviours against the existing pass grade descriptors for the EPA and will last up to a maximum of 1 hour on a one to one basis with one Apprentice to one assessor.

Where Apprentices are eligible (see below) Evidence aspects 1 and 2 should be submitted at least 5 working days in advance of the Professional Discussion to provide sufficient time for the assessor to review the included evidence and prepare for the Professional Discussion.

The Training provider/employer are expected to review the evidence package prior to submission to ensure that it includes sufficient evidence to support the Professional Discussion, in line with mapping documentation (provided by EPAOs).

Professional Discussions can be conducted remotely or face-to-face.


In line with previous discussions with the employer group and the Institute, it should be noted that:

  • Apprentices can only be allocated a maximum of a pass grade if this new EPA Discretion is applied.

(The distinction grade cannot be assessed through this approach, as the on-programme qualification used as an evidence base is assessed at pass/fail)

  • Re-sits and re-takes are not offered to Apprentices wishing to move from pass to a higher grade. (In line with existing Institute policy)

Parameters for Eligibility

It is anticipated that most Apprentices will still access the practical aspects of their EPA in line with the assessment plan, or via the previously existing Covid-19 flexibilities and dispensations (as per Autumn 2020).

This additional discretion option has been provided for circumstances where that is not possible, or in exceptional circumstances where it would not be appropriate to use the previously existing Covid-19 flexibilities and dispensations.

The high-level principles for eligibility, for Apprentices who will have already met the existing gateway requirements, are set out below:

  • Where close contact/personal services are not available (due to national or regional lockdowns, other restrictions or Government Covid 19 guidance) and the Apprentice does not wish to delay their EPA
  • Where it is not safe for the Apprentice to undertake close contact work for personal medical reasons (e.g. shielding) or similar (e.g. in line with PHE guidance)
  • Difficulties in accessing appropriate venues (e.g. feasibility issues due to commercial difficulties)
  • Where employment situation of the Apprentice has changed, or is changing in a way which necessitates the use of this this discretion

The above reasons are not exhaustive – they set out the high-level principles to assist in determining the eligibility for application of this discretion.

We encourage Training Providers to share this message with their Employers and Apprentices and continue to prepare and progress Apprentices to undertake the EPA in its usual form. Where you believe there is a genuine need, and your Apprentice meets the eligibility requirements for this discretionary approach please contact us directly to request an EPA Discretion Form.

What happens next?

We are continuing to work closely with the other EPAOs as well as our own subject experts and product development team to create the supporting assessment materials to operationalise this additional discretion.

We ask for your patience and understanding as we undertake this process. This will ensure that we can provide, where needed, a Mapping and Tracking document along with guidance pertaining to the required Evidence Package and Assessor/Employer Competency Statement and further details on preparing Apprentices for the Professional Discussion. Additionally, we will be conducting training and standardisation with our own EPA Assessors. We will provide a further update once this process is complete and support materials are available, and it will be at this stage when we will be able to accept bookings for this approach for any eligible and approved Apprentices.

If you have any questions about anything in this update, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by emailing

How TQUK Can Help You

The new apprenticeship standards are designed to improve upon what’s gone before and help with the apprentice’s initial journey into their chosen career, before you know it, they’ll be on the road to success.


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