One of the most interesting things about the culinary world is that so many chefs begin their career with an apprenticeship, a much larger proportion than other sectors. During culinary apprenticeships, young chefs study under the supervision of a master chef in order to soak up all their knowledge. Many apprentice chefs also travel within and outside their home countries, developing their skills by testing themselves in different environments and exposing themselves to new forms of cooking.

To show you where a culinary apprenticeship can take you, here are 8 renowned UK chefs that started out as apprentices.

Heston Blumenthal

Photograph by Andrew Kneebone / Flicker / CC BY-SA 2.0

Heston Blumenthal is a very bright star in the UK’s gastronomic landscape. When he left school at eighteen, Blumenthal began an apprenticeship at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons and over the next ten years took other odd jobs while teaching himself classical French cuisine in the evenings.

Blumenthal is best known for his revolutionary restaurant in Bray, Berkshire, The Fat Duck, that offers up multi-sensory dining experiences. It is also the place where Blumenthal further developed his unique scientific approach to cooking.

Blumenthal is not chained to culinary orthodoxy – he has come up with some of the world’s most unusual and striking dishes. Think triple cooked chips, snail porridge, parsnip cereal and even bacon and egg ice cream!

Clare Smyth

Claire Smyth is widely celebrated as one of the greatest chefs in the world, being named World’s Best Female Chef 2018 by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

It’s not surprising with such an impressive pedigree.

While at culinary college, Smyth served as an apprentice at Grayshott Hall, Surrey. She continued her training at a variety of restaurants in Australia, Cornwall and London before landing a post at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay with the titular, world-famous chef.

Her new restaurant, Core, in London’s Notting Hill, celebrates British ingredients with her most famous dish being Potato and Roe. Core was voted the World’s Third Best Restaurant by The Good Food Guide.

Gordon Ramsay

Photograph by gordonramsaysubmissions/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0
Photograph by gordonramsaysubmissions/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0

This man needs no introduction. If you haven’t seen Kitchen Nightmares, Hell’s Kitchen or been to one of his many restaurants around the world, then you’ve been living under a culinary rock.

Suffice to say, Ramsay is by far and away the world’s most popular chef, and certainly one of the most successful from the UK. His fiery personality and cutting-edge cuisine have made him a darling of both food connoisseurs and mainstream audiences. He owns and manages 40 restaurants worldwide that have a combined 22 Michelin stars.

Not bad for someone who started off as an apprentice in hotel management, and whose enrolment in catering college was described by the chef and businessman as “a complete accident”!

Rachel Humphrey

Rachel Humphrey is the Head Chef at the revered Le Gavroche restaurant in London and has had a long and prestigious career since she’s been there.

Humphrey joined Le Gavroche as an apprentice after leaving school in 1996, first becoming a Commis Chef in 1998, Chef De Partie in 2003 and then Sous Chef in 2004. (We think she would’ve loved our list of apprenticeship standards in hospitality!) In 2008, she was promoted to Head Chef and became the first female Head Chef in the restaurant’s 40-year history at just 30 years old.

Humphrey was instrumental in livening up the restaurant’s heavy classical French menu, emphasising seasonal produce and lighter, more contemporary dishes.

Jamie Oliver

Photograph by Land Rover MENA / Flicker / CC BY 2.0
Photograph by Land Rover MENA / Flicker / CC BY 2.0

Known for his bubbly personality and perennial nice-guy demeanour, Jamie Oliver has become one of the most well-known, well-liked and successful British chef in the last 20 years.

Oliver left school at 16 with two GCSEs in Art and Geology and began his culinary career by enrolling in a home economics apprenticeship at Westminster College. This vital stepping stone was just what he needed to get started on his now legendary career. While acting as Sous Chef at The River Café in Fulham, he was noticed by the BBC in 1997 and two years later his TV programme, The Naked Chef, debuted on the channel.

Oliver’s chain of restaurants has become well known for its apprenticeship programmes. In his establishments, many individuals coming from disadvantaged backgrounds are given a chance to succeed in the food industry.

Michael Caines

Photograph by Chris Allen / / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photograph by Chris Allen / / CC BY-SA 2.0

Michael Caines is perhaps one of the most impressive chefs in the UK. He’s overcome a serious disability to become an industry icon with a Europe-wide reputation for catering brilliance.

At 18, Caines attended Exeter Catering College and undertook a series of apprenticeships at impressive establishments, like the Grosvenor House Hotel and Le Manoir. Then, at age 25, he lost his arm in a car accident. This would be a hard enough ordeal for anyone, but it was even more so for a man in a profession that requires extensive use of his hands. But he did not let this tragedy stop him. He went on to become head chef at Gidley Park, winning two Michelin stars by combining classical French cooking with the finest produce in the South West of England. He also co-owns a chain of boutique hotels.

Caines has also shown a desire to promote apprenticeships in the hospitality sector. He helped pioneer the Michael Caines Academy at Exeter College, widely considered to be the ‘Oxbridge’ of the culinary world.

Monica Galetti

The Samoan-born, Kiwi, London-based chef is best known for her appearances on the hit BBC TV series, Masterchef: The Professionals. Her reputation extends inside and outside the culinary world, as she also acts as an official UK Tourism Ambassador.

Galetti’s first job was as an apprentice in a kitchen. She entered cooking competitions in Australia, America and Europe until she began to look for a position in London by sending her CV to top restaurateurs.

After moving from Wellington, New Zealand, to London, she worked her way through the ranks of the two Michelin starred Le Gavroche to become Senior Sous Chef, the first woman to hold such a position in the history of the restaurant. She later launched and was Head Chef at Le Gavroche des Tropiques in Mauritius. In 2017, she opened a new restaurant in London called Mere with her husband David Galetti that blends classical French and South Pacific influences.

Mark Jarvis

Mark Jarvis is one of the rising stars of London’s restaurant scene, with his third restaurant, Stem, opening in March 2018 to great reviews.

He began his career with an apprenticeship at Chartridge Conference Company and worked his way up the ranks of Oxfordshire kitchens to a position at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir, before opening Blanc’s pub, The Thatch, as Developing Chef in 2007. He has also worked in revered restaurants including Sauterelle, Texture, Blueprint Café and The Bingham Hotel. He’s known throughout London for his unique take on modern fusion cooking.

Jarvis is set to open even more restaurants around London if the success of his current venture continues.


What connects all these individuals is, regardless of their style and approach to food, is their dedication to quality. No chef rises above the ranks without adhering to rigorous standards. As an EPAO, TQUK is honoured to help apprentices across the UK meet thorough EPA standards and provide them with challenges that will help them learn and grow for the future.

To keep up to date with the latest TQUK EPA news, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

See you around The Hive!


Do you know who to call?

EPA can be a spooky business. There are so many rules, regulations and people involved that it can feel like a paranormal world. One look at an assessment plan and you might think, “No human being would create a document like this.”

But it’s easy to make EPA work for you and your apprentice.

If you’ve got EPA problems that verge on the supernatural, then pick up the phone and call…TQUK!

No matter what your EPA troubles are, we’re ready to believe you!

Scared of the EPA process?

Did you just get to Gateway? Having some jitters about crossing those streams?

Put those fears away!

End-Point Assessment (EPA) is a pretty straightforward process. Once the apprentice reaches the end of the training programme, they must undergo a final assessment, made up of several activities, in order to ensure they have all the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need.

Starting your first EPA can be a bit daunting. But TQUK will be with you every step of the way to make sure you’re doing everything you need to do. Call 03333 583 344 to talk to our EPA professionals or read on to see all the ways we can help you.

Scared of 20% Off-the-Job Training commitments?

You may have heard some whispers about Off-the-Job Training. Some people thought this one little commitment would cause disasters of biblical proportions.

But Off-the-Job Training is an indispensable part of creating high-quality, work-ready apprentices.

The rule ensures that apprentices get plenty of time to attain all the knowledge and the skills they’ll need to perform optimally in their role. This means 20% of their contracted payable hours will be spent learning everything they need to meet all the criteria outlined in the apprenticeship standard.

The rule benefits both the employer and the apprentice. By investing time and energy early in the apprentice’s training, the employer will end up with a better-skilled worker at the end of the process, and the apprentice will be able to respond with confidence to any situation they may come across.

Scared of no resources?

Are you scared beyond the capacity of rational thought of being all alone in the EPA process?

There’s no need to fret!

TQUK has been dedicated to being that guiding hand through this scary time in the apprenticeship process. We do our utmost to engage with you early, supporting you to make all the right choices.

That’s why we created loads of resources to help all stakeholders – employers, training providers and assessors – to understand the process.

Looking for a quick and easy summary of an apprenticeship and its EPA? We’ve got Factsheets.

Apprentices need help preparing for EPA? We’ve got learner packs to help them prepare.

Want to manage and track apprentice progress? We’ve got an online EPA management tool with downloadable documents and scheduling functions so you have everything in one place.

Scared of unclear fees?

It’s hard for some EPAOs. EPA fees can go up and down depending on standards, costs and other factors. Generally, you don’t see that kind of behaviour in a company trying to offer a reliable service.

Our fees, on the other hand, are available in black and orange right here on our site. We try to offer the most competitive price we can so that you can spend your cash on more training and resources. You just have to visit one of our pages to see!

Our payment structure is also extremely flexible. Our 25% upfront cost also works for withdrawn apprentices – you can use your registration fees for your next cohort.

If you need some extra assurance, we have a price list we can send you that will have answers to all the questions you need. Just get in touch!

Worried about no mock assessments?

Every EPAO has its own myth about the end of the assessment.

We know what happens when people are properly prepared: they tend to succeed. That’s why we’ve developed a comprehensive series of mock assessments to help you get started.

Our star of the show is our mock multiple-choice question papers. When apprentices are required to take an MCQ test as part of their EPA, we provide mock MCQs to prepare apprentices for the types of subjects that will be covered and the style of questions that will be asked. By familiarising apprentices with the assessment early, they’re more likely to do well.

Scared of the Apprenticeship Levy?

Back off man, we’re an EPAO! We know what we’re talking about. And we say the Apprenticeship Levy is awesome!

The Apprenticeship Levy applies to all companies in the UK with a pay bill over £3 million. It’s meant to raise funds for apprenticeships across the UK. All funds raised through the Levy will be available to individual companies through an online portal. They’ll also be topped up by 10% by the government, giving you more cash to spend on apprenticeship training.

Money raised from the Levy will also be used for EPA. We can work with you to make sure you’re using your funds correctly.

All it takes is a little elbow grease to make this money flow. It’s there anyway – you might as well use it!

Spooked by unclear assessment plans?

Unclear assessment plans have caused some trouble. A bad assessment plan can result in total protonic reversal in an apprenticeship.

As assessment experts, TQUK makes sure we conduct fair and objective assessments of all apprentices. We make a point of going the extra mile to work with other EPAOs and the Institute of Apprenticeships to overcome any hurdle we come across.

No EQA challenge is too large for us!

Scared of first-time EPA bungles?

Doing EPA for the first time? So confused that you feel like you’ve been possessed by Zuul?

TQUK is there with Neutrona Wands in hand, ready to dispel that confusion.

EPA differs from normal types of assessment. There are loads of rules that you have to follow. For assessors conducting EPA for the first time, it can be a daunting prospect.

That’s why we offer free-of-charge EPA training to all assessors! By doing this, assessors can hit the ground running with confidence in their understanding of how EPA works.

We also offer mock versions of several assessment activities to prepare the assessor for the activities they’ll be conducting with their apprentice. This way, they’ll be able to get their EPA hats on nice and early.

Get in touch to arrange your free training session!

Afraid of minimum registrations?

A lot of employers are worried about getting slimed by minimum registrations. Many EPAOs require minimum registrations to justify the fees they charge.

Well, not us!

Based on our pricing structure and our digital platforms, we’re able to be a lot more nimble than other EPAOs. Even if you have only one apprentice registered with us, we’ll be there to help you along the way.

Just like the Ghostbusters, we’ll go wherever we have to to get the job done!

Scared of working with too many organisations?

Feel like you’re working with as many companies as ghosts in New York City?

Some employers have to work with two or more organisations throughout the apprenticeship process. This can lead to a lot of crossed lines and confusion. Wouldn’t it be better to have all services in one place?

As an awarding organisation, TQUK also delivers regulated qualifications, which can be used in conjunction with several apprenticeship standards. Instead of working with two or three organisations to get your apprentices assessed and completed, you can work with just one – us!

Our qualifications are designed as standalone qualifications and have been constructed to suit the requirements of the apprenticeship standards as well. Find out which apprenticeships you can get regulated qualifications with here.


With our trusty assessors at hand, we’re going all around the UK, busting EPA myths.

If you want to keep up to date on all the EPAs we’re busting, you can follow our exploits on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

See you around The Hive.

As an End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO), TQUK is always on the lookout for quality people to join our End-Point Assessment (EPA) team. Within that team, EPA Assessors are the worker bees in The Hive. They’re the people who deliver the amazing service we offer.

EPA Assessors verify an apprentice’s occupational competence during their End-Point Assessment and are meant to be fair and impartial arbiters of quality. They always come to an objective assessment of an apprentice’s knowledge, skills and abilities at the end of their programme. Being an EPA Assessor also requires individuals to be flexible in their approach to assessment and create situations where an apprentice’s best qualities can shine through.

Being an EPA Assessor is one of the best jobs in further education right now, and there are loads of reasons why. To get you started, here are three perks of being an EPA Assessor!

You Can Travel All Over the UK

EPA Assessors have to be nimble. Like our symbol, the humble honeybee, they travel all across the UK, dispensing the pollen of their knowledge and experience.

As education professionals, travelling the country will increase your understanding of regional apprenticeships and further education needs. It will also allow you to expand your network, share your knowledge and experience across industries and actively contribute to spreading great educational practices.

You Can Help Improve the Economic Health of the UK

As you may have heard, the UK has a bit of a skills gap. There are widening gaps in vital sectors like healthcare, education, hospitality and more for a variety of reasons: under-investment in skills, underemployment, misemployment and Brexit. If the UK is going to compete at a high level in the global marketplace, we need to invest massively in education and skills. We’ve previously written a blog on the issue of the skills gap in healthcare and offered some solutions to the problem, so you might want to take a look!

Apprentices will play a vital role in helping to plug these skills gaps. Employers all over the country are discovering the value of investing more in apprenticeships and are hopping right on board. Not only do apprenticeships improve the economic health of the UK, but they also bring a wealth of benefits to their employers. For example, hiring an apprentice is a great way of increasing an organisation’s productivity, decreasing staff turnover and training people to have vital workplace skills.

As an EPA Assessor, you’ll be helping to secure the future economic health of the UK by ensuring that all apprentices you complete have all the knowledge, skills and behaviours they need to succeed.

You Can Contribute to Creating the Next Generation of Apprentices

As an industry leading EPAO, we see the dedication and passion of our assessors every day. Assessing vocationally-related qualifications is a tough job and we are always amazed at the knowledge and experience that they display when working with their apprentices.

As an EPA Assessor and subject expert in a particular apprenticeship standard, you’ll be able to exercise your passion for your chosen field while ensuring that the next generation of apprentices survive and thrive. Doing what you love while helping individuals passionate about their programme will be all in a day’s work!

Sectors and Standards for Assessors

If you’re excited by the prospect of beginning your career in assessment, and you have experience, we would love to hear from you! Here are the sectors that are currently seeing a massive demand for EPA Assessors.


At the moment, there are huge staff shortages in healthcare positions all over the UK. This means that the number of healthcare apprenticeships in the coming years is set to rise, along with the need for EPA Assessors in various healthcare subjects.

See all our approved Healthcare standards below:


TQUK is well known for our expertise in the hospitality industry. Our training providers include some of the hospitality organisations in the UK. If you have hospitality experience and would like to share your knowledge and expertise, get in touch.

See all our approved Hospitality standards below:


Business apprenticeships are sharply rising in popularity. Employers all over the UK are recruiting apprentices to develop, implement, maintain and improve all kinds of services. Business apprentices can also specialise in certain areas, from customer service to project management and learning and development. It is vital that these apprentices receive a rigorous assessment to ensure their skills are up to snuff.

See all our approved Business standards below:


Management apprenticeships are by far the most popular apprenticeships among the new Trailblazer standards. They provide the training would-be managers need to get the very best out of their teams. As an EPA Assessor, you’ll help make sure these apprentices have all the skills they need to make a real impact on their business.

See all our approved Management standards below:


A new and exciting area for apprenticeships, the retail sector is in great need of skilled people to manage their operations. Retail is entering a new era, with disruptions such as online shopping, sustainability and customisation presenting massive opportunities for the sector to respond and evolve. You could help new apprentices prepare for this.

See all our approved Retail standards below:

Sales, Marketing & Procurement

In a crowded marketplace, employers need to make their organisations, products and services stand out. Apprenticeships in the Sales, Marketing and Procurement sectors will train people up to help organisations develop their profile, increase turnover and find new opportunities. Assessors in this area will need vast amounts of knowledge and experience to ensure these standards are correctly applied.

See all our approved Sales, Marketing and Procurement standards below:


An often overlooked section of apprenticeships, HR apprentices are fast becoming a must-have in all organisations. The training they receive will help ensure that their companies remain compliant with employment regulation, excel at resourcing and develop in new directions. The number of apprentices in these standards are climbing, and fast. Help them become all that they can be!

See all our approved HR standards below:

Hair & Beauty

Aesthetics have a long and proud history in apprenticeships. Many young barbers, stylists and artists of all kinds enrol in these apprenticeships every year to begin their careers. You can help them become brilliant in their craft!

See all our approved Hair & Beauty standards below:

Childcare & Education

It is vital for the welfare of the next generation that we have people with the right skills to raise, nurture and educate children. Childcare and education are in-demand and stable career routes that many individuals opt for. It will be up to you, as an EPA Assessor, to apply standards so that apprentices in childcare and education can operate effectively in their workplace.

See all our approved Childcare & Education standards below:


We hope we piqued the interest of all you potential EPA Assessors out there! If you would like more information, you can call 03333 583 344 and speak to one of the members of our EPA Team.

To keep up to date with the latest news from TQUK, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

See you around The Hive!

The Institute for Apprenticeships’ (IfA) decision to begin statutory reviews of digital apprenticeship standards is a very welcome move. TQUK believes it should be the first step in a larger push to review all standards and assessment plans, and soon.

Sir Gerry Berragan, chief executive at the IfA, said that the statutory reviews will ensure that “all apprenticeship standards [will] continue to be of high quality and meet the needs of employers.” It is the IfA’s responsibility to determine whether assessment plans or standards should be amended or withdrawn. The review, Berragan states, should be “employer-led, informed by stakeholders” and “overseen by the appropriate route panel that will underpin the quality of T-levels and apprenticeships”.

TQUK is very excited by the opportunities that statutory reviews present. Reviews are long overdue since many of the standards we have worked with have had prominent teething problems.

Statutory reviews need a new approach

The new apprenticeship standards began with a great concept. Trailblazers were brought in to help create the standards. The Trailblazers were able to outline the exact skills, knowledge and behaviours apprentices needed to excel in their role.

But the resulting assessment plans created particular difficulties.

Several standards contained assessment plans that were not as high quality as they could have been. Trailblazers and the IfA packed some assessment plans so tight that it resulted in large amounts of over-assessment. Other assessment plans did not provide clear guidance on assessment criteria for individual End-Point Assessment (EPA) activities. Still more presented inappropriate thresholds for presenting Passes, Merits and Distinctions. It was not uncommon to find assessment plans for some standards that contradicted themselves in different sections. TQUK has worked closely with other End-Point Assessment Organisations (EPAOs) and the IfA to overcome these obstacles and ensure that apprentices get a fair and impartial assessment of their abilities.

Assessments are a different story

Employers know what they need from their employees. But creating assessments is an area that requires a particular set of skills.

Trailblazers did not do a bad job creating the current crop of assessment plans. However, a lot has happened in the last year and a half. We now know where improvements can be made after seeing how the apprenticeship standards work.

The creation of new standards must be employer-led, but these statutory reviews should ensure proper input and engagement from EPAOs to create high-quality assessment plans. We are not  subject experts, but we are assessment experts. EPAOs are the perfect resource to lean on when reviewing and creating new assessment plans. We invite all Trailblazers and the IfA to consult the appropriate EPAOs as much as possible to ensure quality assessment plans are created so that we can take UK apprenticeships to the next level.

To keep up to date with all the latest news from TQUK EPA, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

See you around The Hive!



In this week’s instalment of A View From the Inside, we interview Ash, TQUK’s star Customer Relations Officer, to get his take on the new apprenticeships landscape, the ins and outs of End-Point Assessment and the greatest fizzy drink ever created.


What happened when you left university?

I thought I was going to join the army, become an officer and have a long career…I’d wanted to be in the army since I was a kid. They wouldn’t accept an officer with a degree without certain results on their A levels, so I was looking to sit an A level in order to get in. And then I joined the Royal Engineers and got a good taste for it. Eventually, though, I realised the lifestyle wasn’t for me.

You did history in university, right?

I’m one of those boring people that could sit at home all day and watch a documentary on the Russian Revolution in 1917 and still find it interesting. There’s always something new to find, even when everyone knows the story. People think they know everything and then two years later some guy will come out of nowhere with a little bit of evidence that will flip everything on its head. When people say the past is the past, that’s true but you can still learn a lot from it. You always have a frame of reference for today.

The story of how you got hired has entered TQUK lore. Tell us about it.

It was when I was living in Wern. Beautiful part of the country, dead peaceful. It was like pressing rewind on your video player. It’s a nice place, but not for a young person. It didn’t take me long to start getting itchy feet.

I ended up coming home, started looking at jobs and that was when David, my stepdad, told me about the job. He was the postman where TQUK was in Cadishead. Andy and Katie chatted with him about the company and they mentioned that they were hiring, so he told me about it and I said, Why not?

The postal service still has its uses.

A face of the company

You’ve become the mainstay of the Client Relationship Team. What would you say is the hardest thing you’ve had to learn on the job?

The knowledge. You have to learn a lot, and you don’t stop learning.

I don’t have a background in the business side of education, so in terms of learning, I was starting from scratch. It was really interesting to learn more about the other sides of education, however – I had no idea this side of education existed. It’s possibly one of the most annoying things to explain to your mates when they ask where you work!

You’re known as the de facto face of the company. What’s that like?

It’s not a bad thing. I’m in a frontline role so it’s expected that people know who I am. It’s also really great to develop some close and familiar relationships with the people at our centres. It’s a nice feeling that people know who you are and like you. You need someone on the phones who can empathise and respond to people’s concerns. A lot of the time, people just want someone to understand their frustrations.

Wrangling with End-Point Assessment

You’ve been more and more involved in the EPA side of the business. Has it changed how you interact with customers?

The first thing was learning about it. It’s really new, but once you look at it long enough, it starts to feel familiar and gets really interesting. My approach is quite similar, though not as sales focused. More about building a rapport. EPA can be a prickly subject so you have to put in that extra effort to get people on board.

You’ve had a lot of interaction with employers and training providers. What would you say the general attitude is to the new reforms?

Some people jumped on board immediately because they knew it was staying, but I come across people here and there that think it’s temporary, that the changes aren’t going to stay. But I think people are slowly coming around to it. It’s not bad at all once you understand what it is and why it’s being done.

Why do you think it’s now up to employers to choose the EPAO?

Not sure what the original intention was, but it gets the employer more involved in the apprentice’s results and education. They’re invested, and that’s a good thing.

In order for apprenticeships to matter, employers have to buy into the value of it and do what’s necessary to provide a good education. That buy-in and investment weren’t necessarily there before, either, when all apprenticeships were covered by the government. So there wasn’t as much responsibility placed on the employer.

What’s it been like working with Kelle and the EPA Team? Has your experience with the awarding organisation side of the business been helpful?

It’s great. Kelle breathes EPA so can always help. It’s been interesting talking to centres with more of an EPA focus. I’ve generally found they are more engaged as it still seems quite new. It’s a pleasure to feel as if I’m introducing people to their next big project.

Apprenticeships in the UK

There have been a few news stories recently about the lack of EQAs for particular apprenticeships. Have you heard about anything like that from employers/training providers you’ve talked to?

The EQA should be one of the first things decided once a standard is being set up for release. If EPAOs move ahead and gain approval for a standard without an EQA, it would be a massive risk. For example, if the EPAO wasn’t also an awarding organisation, and Ofqual became the EQA, the EPAO would lose the business for that standard. They may have already spoken to employers and created resources. It should be clear from the start who the EQA is.

Are there any pros or cons to employers being in charge of creating the apprenticeship standards?

Having the creation process dominated by larger companies should show an improvement in the standard of the apprenticeship. But it leaves little independence for small companies to leave their mark and cater the apprenticeship. For example, a larger company may use the same introduction across the board whereas a smaller company may personalise or cater an introduction depending on who they’re talking to. A lot of people are starting to like the independent small shops again.

Did you ever consider doing an apprenticeship yourself?

Already completed a level 4 apprenticeship in Business and Professional Administration! Although, it’d be interesting to sit through the EPA process as a learner to really get a feel for the process. That’s one thing I think a lot of people in positions like ours are missing – the first-hand experience of the apprenticeship.

Looking back at your time at TQUK, what’s one thing you’ve accomplished that you’re most proud of?

You try to be proud of everything. I’m after the respect of others more than anything. If you needed something done, you can ask me. I’m not the type of person to get really excited when we do a big deal or make a lot of money, although that’s great. It makes me happier when I get good feedback from a customer.

3, 2, 1…

You’ve entered the lightning round! You have to answer each question within three seconds!!

Uh oh.

Tolstoy or Dostoevsky?


Coke or Pepsi?

Pepsi. Only because Pepsi Cherry Max is an addiction.

Cats or dogs?


Men or women?


The sky or the ground?


What is the meaning of life?

Pepsi Cherry Max.


Stay glued to TQUK’s blogs to for more insight on qualifications, apprenticeships, quality assurance and much, much more. To keep up to date with the latest news from TQUK EPA, return to our blog or follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

See you around The Hive!

Functional Skills are an integral part of delivering apprenticeships in the UK.

If you’re an employer employing an apprentice or a training provider training an apprentice, you will have seen them listed as requirements on the apprenticeship standards.

No matter what apprenticeship you are delivering, your apprentice will need to provide evidence that they have achieved Functional Skills qualifications or some equivalent. (More on the equivalents later.)

What are Functional Skills?

Functional Skills are the basic skills that all people need to be able to operate confidently and successfully in work and life.

Functional Skills provide learning tools that enable apprentices to:

  • Apply their knowledge and understanding to everyday life;
  • Engage competently and confidently with others;
  • Solve problems in both familiar and unfamiliar problems; and
  • Develop personally and professionally.

Why are Functional Skills important to apprenticeships?

Functional Skills are a key component in all the apprenticeship standards.

Achieving a Functional Skills qualification demonstrates that an apprentice has all the skills they need in English and maths to be able to engage with their programme. They help apprentices to develop and secure the broader range of aptitudes, attitudes and behaviours.

For all apprenticeships that TQUK offers End-Point Assessment for, either Level 1 or Level 2 Functional Skills qualifications are required.

In some circumstances, achieving Level 1 Functional Skills qualifications and attempting a Level 2 is sufficient.

All Functional Skills qualifications must be completed before the Gateway stage of the apprenticeship.

With the apprenticeship standards in full swing, we’ve come across some recurring questions about what exactly can be used as evidence of Functional Skills. If you have an apprentice who may not fit the mould in terms of their Functional Skills qualifications, the following questions may help!

My apprentice does not have Functional Skills qualifications for a Level 2 or above apprenticeship. Are there any other qualifications that can act as an equivalent?

Yes, there are!

The government has provided a list of acceptable current or prior equivalent qualifications for English and Maths.

Follow the link and click on:

This will open a spreadsheet. Scroll down to the bottom of the spreadsheet and click on one of the following icons:

After you click on one of the icons, the spreadsheets that appear will provide:

  • Equivalent qualifications;
  • Whether the qualification satisfies the English and/or Maths requirements; and
  • The minimum acceptable grade required for each qualification.

My apprentice has completed a diagnostic assessment. The outcome of this assessment shows that they can work at a level in English and maths that is at, or above, the required level. Does this count as sufficient evidence to satisfy the standard requirements?

No. Diagnostic assessments are not sufficient evidence to meet the requirements of the apprenticeship standard.

To be ‘assessed at a particular level’ refers to particular qualifications related to the apprenticeship (Functional Skills or GCSE) rather than another type of assessment.

Please see the Apprenticeship funding rules for training providers, P124-125 for more information:

My apprentice sat an exam some time ago that proves their ability to work at a particular level in English and maths. They do not have a copy of the certificate, but they have achieved a higher vocational or professional qualification, like a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Will this be accepted as evidence to fulfil the Functional Skills requirements?

No. As the End-Point Assessment Organisation, TQUK must ensure that the apprentice has achieved the required qualification.  You must produce evidence to that effect. Evidence of this achievement is most commonly a copy of the qualification certificate. Where overseas qualifications are being used, confirmation from NARIC is required.

If this evidence cannot be provided, your apprentice will not be able to proceed to the Gateway stage of the apprenticeship.


The TQUK team is more than happy to help with any questions or concerns you may have. You can send questions to or you can call 03333 583 344.

To keep up to date with the latest apprenticeships and end-point assessment news, return to TQUK EPA’s blog or follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

See you around The Hive!

Leadership is the capacity to turn vision into reality. And right now, end-point assessment needs some leadership.

For many months, the FE sector has voiced many concerns about the external quality assurance (EQA) of end-point assessment (EPA).

In the most recent issue of Countdown, Mark Dawe, CEO of AELP, outlined the concerns of many employers and training providers in the industry:

There are EPAs being delivered to apprentices with no functioning EQA overlooking the validity and reliability of the assessment.  Totally unacceptable, and we are starting to get reports of real concern […] Awards are being made and in many cases there is no EQA fully operational to confirm that basic assessment principles are being applied.”

EQA provision has been slow to expand at the same rate as the publication of new apprenticeship standards.

As a general rule, the Institute of Apprenticeships aims to have an EQA in place by the time apprentices undertake EPA for their apprenticeship. But there is some evidence that that hasn’t happened.

End-Point Assessment Organisations like TQUK, however, haven’t waited around. We’ve continued to provide the first class assessment service employers and our partners expect, ensuring a quality EPA is delivered every time.

Indeed, Dawe points out in the same article:

Good EPAs are being delivered thanks to the provider commitment and to the EPAO commitment – no thanks to the systems and processes being in place to ensure that every apprentice is treated fairly.

When delivering EPA, we’re using our years of experience to fill in the cracks left by missing EQAs.

We have:

  • Devised grade descriptors to know which grades to award in each instance;
  • Ensured over-assessment does not occur by determining which criteria should be assigned and assessed by individual assessment components;
  • Determined timing and duration of assessments, adding detail along the way;
  • Continued with the EPA and certificate claiming process when EQAs are not assigned so as not to hold up progress;
  • Continued to develop open and communicative relationships with EQAs;
  • Regularly engaged in EPAO forum events where the opportunity to share and standardise best practice is possible.

Apprentices need the proper knowledge, skills and behaviours to be successful in their careers. And employers need to know that they will be getting confident and skilled workers at the end of their programme.

Apprenticeships need to work for everyone, from the beginning to the end-point assessment. TQUK will help make that happen.

To keep up to date with the latest news from TQUK EPA, return to our blog or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

See you around The Hive!


You’ve taken a multiple choice test before, right?

Of course, you have!

They’re everywhere, from the multiple choice question tests we take in schools to the latest addictive Buzzfeed questionnaire.

As an End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) assessing apprentices, TQUK is responsible for creating a variety of assessment materials, including the test papers that apprentices will encounter. Multiple choice questions will make up, or will included in,  many of these test papers.

Now, you’d think that creating an multiple choice questions test would be simple. After all, they’re everywhere; how hard can it be?

Well, as it turns out, it’s a complicated business.

It may be easy to create a Buzzfeed questionnaire — it’s a whole other order to create a quality multiple choice questions test for an apprentice’s end-point assessment (EPA).

Here are just a few factors that the EPA Team takes into account when creating one of our great test papers.

The Role of Multiple Choice Question Writers and Subject Experts

An intrepid EPAO beginning their journey towards creating an amazing multiple choice question test must gather some friends along the way.

After all, you can’t just pick up a pen and decide, willy-nilly, to write the 33rd question on an multiple choice question test for a Commis Chef EPA. Hold your horses!

In order to write appropriate questions for an assessment activity, you need expert help. You need professionals on your side who know what skills an apprentice should know, and when they need to know them, during their course of learning.

TQUK consistently commissions questions from our huge bank of question writers — subject experts, all, from healthcare and hospitality to management and retail — to ensure we are creating rich, high quality questions that populate our real and mock multiple choice question tests.


Certainly, language is a key consideration when composing a test question. Clear phrasing and appropriate difficulty are paramount.

Seems straightforward, right?

Guess again!

Appropriate language levels are the subject of a tremendous amount of debate. What kind of language is appropriate for particular apprenticeships?

Let’s explain.

Say you’re in a level 2 apprenticeship in customer service. Most likely, you and most of your peers will between ages 16-19.

Any test you or they take must be reasonably written to the reading level of someone that age and, by extension, the level of that apprenticeship. You wouldn’t expect to find command verbs like “collate” and “tabulate” in those test questions — such complex words would be more appropriate for a higher level apprenticeship.

The questions we have to ask are, Which words and phrases belong at each level? What kind of sentence structure is too complex? Which words are appropriate for a level 4 but inappropriate for a level 3?

The natural place to start, we thought, was the Ofqual guidance on qualification and component levels. It is helpful at first, but perhaps can’t quite provide the level of detail required. After all,  detailing alignment of language within new apprenticeships was not the aim  of this document from Ofqual.

But there are models that could provide guidance.

For instance, Bloom’s Taxonomy offers a template on what type of questions and language can be used to assess low and high level thinking skills. These frameworks can be applied to lower and higher level apprenticeships.

In Bloom’s Taxonomy, lower level thinking skills can include knowledge recall, the demonstration of the basic understanding of facts and the application of those facts to particular situations. (ie “What are the different types of chicken meat?”, “Compare the taste profiles of white and dark meat”, or “Could eating undercooked chicken be a risk for contracting salmonella?”)

Higher level thinking skills could include knowledge dissection, synthesising compiled information in a different manner and the ability to evaluate and defend positions and judgments. (“List four ways free range chicken imparts more health benefits. Provide references.” “Take a sweet chicken recipe and convert it to a savoury chicken recipe. Explain how your recipe substitutions will work towards your goal.” “Would dark meat be better paired with red or white wine? Why?”)

As a general rule of thumb, TQUK uses the following criteria in creating level-appropriate test questions:

  • Level 1 questions should be one simple sentence with no conjunctions;
  • Level 2 and 3 questions should include only 12 words per sentence, and one conjunction per question. Language should be kept as simple as possible;
  • Level 4 and 5 questions can be made up of several sentences but should not extend past a reading time of 20 seconds.

This is only one model, however. TQUK relishes the chance to work with our training providers to produce the best possible EPA questions.


The “stem” is the questions or problem presented at the beginning of the multiple choice question.

EPAOs and their question writers have the benefit of consulting the apprenticeship standards. These lay out all the knowledge, skills and abilities that apprentices need to learn over the course of the apprenticeship.

Stems should be

  • Self-contained and meaningful on their own;
  • Free of irrelevant material.

A great stem must focus on relevant subject material, should prompt the apprentice to complex thought processes and use scenarios that apprentices could likely encounter.

This is where the experience of our question writers comes in. They will be able to draw on their industry knowledge to create plausible and challenging “what if” scenarios.


How difficult should a question be?

Creating the ideal test question requires a certain amount of empathy. You need to make sure the question is appropriately difficult for that apprenticeship while keeping in mind what the apprentice should know at that stage.

For instance, take the following stem question: What are the ingredients used in a white sauce?

The correct answer is: flour, butter and milk.

Distractors are the main source of difficulty with a multiple choice question.

When the other distractors are a) black pudding, milk and mint b) red wine, shallots and calvados or c) gravy granules, water and black food colouring, the correct answer should not be overly difficult to guess. This would be a bad test question.

However, when the distractors are a) flour, olive oil and milk b) rice flour, butter and cream c) flour, butter and cream, the correct answer would be more difficult to choose. This would be a better test question.

Choosing the best possible distractors is always a big consideration when writing test questions. All effective distractors should be:

  • Plausible;
  • Stated clearly and concisely;
  • Mutually exclusive;
  • Homogenous in content;
  • Free from clues about which response is correct;
  • Presented in a logical order.


It’s always fascinating how seemingly simple things can demand so much attention!

We’ll continue to do the little things well to ensure apprentices get the best possible assessment service in England today.

To keep up to date with the latest news from TQUK EPA, return to our blog or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

See you around The Hive!

Joseph Bailey was delighted to complete his Adult Care Worker apprenticeship in mid June at Creative Support. But on top of this achievement, he received another feather in his cap: Joseph was the first Adult Care Worker apprentice in the UK to receive a Distinction.

Joseph’s achievement is unique and impressive since he is one of a small minority of male apprentices in the care sector.

Both Creative Support and Training Qualifications UK were amazed with Joseph’s drive, expertise and confidence.

Continue reading “TQUK passes the first adult care worker apprentice in the UK to receive a Distinction”

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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