As we draw May to a close please allow us to offer another weekly EPA update on the following subjects:

  • Functional Skills- Calculated Results and EPA Sequencing
  • ESFA guidance – updated on 19th May
  • Apprentice Framework switch off
  • New EPA Standards

As well as, a further update and / or reminder regarding:

  • Hospitality & Catering Standards – LIVE from today (26th May)
  • Update on Alternative Assessment Delivery

And finally, a thank you, for your feedback so far and to request more feedback and success stories:

  • COVID-19 Apprenticeship success stories

Functional Skills – Calculated Results & EPA Sequencing

In addition to the flexibilities applied to enable Level 2 Apprentices to progress through Gateway, without requiring evidence of “attempting” Level 2 assessments until 31st July 2020, last week a further Functional Skills related flexibility was published.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education have confirmed an additional temporary flexibility that enables all Apprentices to progress to undertake their End-Point Assessment, ahead of receiving their calculated Functional Skills Qualification, later on in the summer.

Typically, an Apprentice is required to provide an End-Point Assessment Organisation with evidence of achievement, for the required Functional Skills level, as part of the mandatory Gateway evidence, prior to the Apprentice commencing their End-Point Assessment.

This new flexibility will enable Apprentices to now progress through Gateway, without this evidence, undertake their End-Point Assessment and submit the Functional Skills evidence at a later date, once received by their issuing Awarding Organisation.

End-Point Assessment Organisations will not apply for the Apprenticeship Certificate until the required Functional Skills evidence has been received.

This flexibility, which has immediate effect, applies to:

  • All Apprentices due to take a Functional Skills Qualification test and receive a result between 20th March and 31st July 2020;
  • Apprentices that are deemed by their Training Provider to have the required level of Functional Skills and sufficient evidence to demonstrate this, to receive a calculated Functional Skills Qualification Pass; and
  • Occupationally competent Apprentices at Gateway who are ready to progress to sit their End-Point Assessment.

Additional guidance is expected to be published shortly to provider Employers, Training Providers and End-Point Assessment Organisations, with greater detail on the implementation of this flexibility. Once published, we will of course seek to implement quickly and provide a further update.

As many of you will be familiar with, our EPA Management system VERVE EPA is custom designed per standard to require evidence against individual standards. We will require evidence of Functional Skills in order for you to submit an Apprentice through Gateway.

In light of this flexibility, to aid this, we have produced a generic document titled “Functional Skills Calculated Results Form”

This can be found under the General Support Materials tab on VERVE EPA.

Training Providers are asked to read and use this form to upload, in lieu of Functional Skills results, when submitting an Apprentice through Gateway. As noted above, once we receive the detail as to the Calculated Results evidence, we will provide a further update on what evidence is needed and how this should then be submitted, in order to enable us to proceed, should the Apprentice have already successfully completed their End-Point Assessment.

ESFA guidance – updated on 19th May

The ESFA have offered a further update to their published guidance, dated 19th May 2020.

This most recent update provides detail on some safe working practices, in line with steps taken to restart the economy and how training and assessments can continue to take place, in line with this safe working practice.

Their included FAQ has also been updated:

  • Questions 19-22 – Linked to furlough arrangements, including Apprentice wage calculations.
  • Question 24 – Funding support for redundant Apprentices.
  • Question 43 – Linked to Apprentice readiness when their line manager is furloughed.

Please read the FAQs here.

Apprentice Framework Switch Off 

A reminder that all Apprenticeship Frameworks will be withdrawn on 31st July 2020.

All Apprentices beyond this date will be required to be registered on an Apprenticeship Standard. Please contact us should you wish to explore adding further standards to your agreement with us, or to discuss other standards, which are not currently part of our portfolio.

New EPA Standards – Coming Soon

Whilst this continues to be a challenging time for us, we have not let this affect our plans to progress and build upon our already impressive End-Point Assessment portfolio.

We are delighted to confirm that we have submitted applications for the following five additional Apprenticeship Standards.

  • Level 2 Early Years Practitioner
  • Level 2 Healthcare Cleaning Operative
  • Level 3 Advanced and Creative Hair Professional
  • Level 4 Lead Practitioner in Adult Care
  • Level 5 Leader in Adult Care

More information, including our fees, can be found on our website.

Hospitality & Catering Standards – LIVE from today (26th May)

We are pleased to confirm that we are fully operational, as of today, for our entire Hospitality and catering suite of standards. Support materials for the approved alternative assessment materials can be found on VERVE EPA.

Please contact us should you wish for any further information.

Update on Alternative Assessment Delivery

Whilst we have been providing you with updates on the approved alternative assessment methods for a range of standards, we thought it might also be useful to share a few brief snippets of feedback from Apprentices, who have now undertaken some of these assessments.

Question – How did you find the alternative assessment method that has been put in place during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Apprentice 1 – Absolutely fine. I actually didn’t expect it to happen, as I had it in mind that it would involve observations, which we know couldn’t happen during the given circumstances.

I had been asked instead to write a reflective statement, which I hadn’t done in ages! But once I started to write it, things were really flowing and I kept thinking of new things to write down. By the end of it, I felt comfortable and it didn’t take too long. It all started to fall into place and it’s a really good way of helping to finish End-Point Assessment. It’s a great idea!

Apprentice 2 – Personally, I found it better. I feel a little more pressure and don’t particularly enjoy being observed, so it takes away that pressure and gives you the chance to better prepare for it.

It feels like it flows better, because you feel less pressure.

Question- Could more have been done to support you to be ready for remote assessments?

Apprentice 1 – Everything for me was absolutely fine!

I was told support will always be given, they will always explain anything or help with any questions, which is absolutely fantastic. I felt comfortable in completing, so for me, I feel nothing more could have been done.

Apprentice 2 – No, I feel I had all the support I needed from those around me, they could always help with any questions I had.

Question – What would you say to other Apprentices who may be apprehensive about the new assessment methodologies?

Apprentice 1 – I felt a little apprehensive at first. Questioning am I able to do it? Will I be able to complete it? But you just have to take a deep breath and throw yourself into the unknown, if you’re unsure.

It may be different for different people. It could be easy, it could be difficult, but just throw yourself at it, and ask questions.

I don’t use computers a lot at home, I’m not fantastic on them, but I threw myself to it and I felt really good when finishing it.

You need to do it and this is the way to do it, so go for it!

Apprentice 2 – Don’t think too much into it. Think of it as an informal chat with someone about what goes on in your average day. I had gotten worked up on how it would be delivered, which made me panic more. When you panic, you forget points, no matter how much you can revise it or go through it. Don’t worry about it, it was great.

COVID-19 Apprenticeship success stories

As before, please do share with us your good new stories, so we can help celebrate all the hard work you are doing to keep Apprenticeships progressing and innovative ways you are working with your Apprentices! Get in touch on epa@tquk.org and give your email the subject line: ‘COVID-19 Apprenticeship success stories’.

Another week and another EPA update from us. This week, we have information about:

  • ESFA Apprenticeship Certificates
  • Lockdown restrictions lifted

As well as a further update and/or reminder regarding:

  • Customer Service Practitioner & Customer Service Specialist – LIVE
  • Hospitality & Catering Standards – Live from Tues 26th May

And finally, a thank you for your feedback so far and to request more feedback and success stories:

  • COVID-19 Apprenticeship success stories

ESFA Apprenticeship Certificates

We have recently been made aware that the ESFA are not currently issuing Apprenticeship Certificates. Whilst we await further information linked to this, we are working on the assumption that this will be due to current working arrangements and not being able to operate a print run.

What does this mean for my Apprentices?

As we await further information we intend to continue to make Certificate submissions, as per our usual process. We keep a robust record of all submissions, so as needed can aid any reconciliation of missing certificates once the ESFA resume issuing once more.

We have also been notified that for some Apprentices who may have completed their End-Point Assessment just prior to lockdown, their Certificate may have been issued and sent to their Employer, which may now be closed. In such instances, these Certificates will have been returned to the ESFA who will look to reissue once they are operational.

We will be providing more updates as we receive these. In the meantime, for any specific enquiries, please send these to epa@tquk.org using ‘COVID Certificate’ in the title.

Lockdown Restrictions Lifted

With the Government offering the first of an expected several updates recently regarding plans to exit the state of lockdown, we thought it might be useful to offer you a brief update on how we plan to operationalise any changes.

As always, safety will remain at the heart of all we do. With that in mind, we will be making any updates to our practice or assessment approach sector-specific and in line with government guidance. As these become applicable, we will provide greater detail to give assurances of our safe working practices.

Just as we did to enable and implement assessment flexibilities and approved alternative assessment methods, we will continue to work closely with IfATE and External Quality Assurance Providers to phase back in assessments such as onsite Practical Observations and other face to face assessment methods.

At present, there is no guidance as to how long the temporary alternative assessment methods will be live for and we will do our best to keep you informed of any prescribed deadlines, ensuring that no Apprentice is disadvantaged by any such changes.

Customer Service Practitioner & Customer Service Specialist – Approved Alternative Assessment Method to Observation LIVE

Further to the update we provided last week, we can confirm that following the IfATEs approval to temporarily replace the Standards Observation assessments with a Witness Testimony and Question & Answer session, Assessor training has since taken place and we are now LIVE with our delivery of this alternative assessment method and support materials are available on VERVE EPA!

A reminder that if your Apprentice has already progressed through Gateway, you do not need to contact us. EPA Assessors will be in contact directly with Apprentices to discuss their option to undertake the replacement assessment component and schedule, as applicable.

For all future Apprentices you submit for Gateway, we have made an alternative COVID-19 Gateway form which we ask you to complete, which confirms the Apprentice’s assessment preferences for this observation or replacement assessment. This updated Gateway form can be found on VERVE EPA and includes COVID-19 in the title.

Hospitality & Catering Standards

As per last week’s update, we would just like to confirm that the alternative assessments for this sector will be LIVE from Tuesday 26th May.

To recap, the replacement assessments linked to Practical Observations will be an On-Programme Evidence Portfolio with Question & Answer Session for the following standards:

  • Hospitality Team Member
  • Hospitality Supervisor
  • Commis Chef
  • Chef De Partie
  • Production Chef
  • Senior Production Chef

In addition to a replacement of the Culinary Challenge assessments with submitted menu plans (costings as applicable), MOCK EPA evidence, Witness Statements and other on-programme evidence as required supported with Question & Answer Session are needed for the following two standards:

  • Commis Chef
  • Chef De Partie

As both replacement assessments rely heavily upon mock EPA and on-programme evidence it might not be possible for all Apprentices to undertake these replacement assessments and we ask that attention is given to our updated guidance documents, which will be published by our go LIVE date of 26th May.

Where evidence does not support Apprentices to undertake these replacement assessments the DELAY option must be chosen to provide the best possible assessment opportunity for each Apprentice.

COVID-19 Apprenticeship success stories

Firstly, a really big thank you for all of your positive messages of support – it has been heart-warming to receive such fantastic feedback in relation to how quickly we have been able to operationalise assessment flexibilities, to support both you and your Apprentices. Our goal throughout this period has been to keep assessment practice going and avoid delays where possible, so it’s brilliant that our efforts are having the desired impact!

In May alone, 96% of our all Apprentices progressing through Gateway have been able to be assessed 100% remotely!

As before, please do share with us your good new stories, so we can help celebrate all the hard work you are doing to keep Apprenticeships progressing and innovative ways you are working with your Apprentices! Get in touch on epa@tquk.org and give your email the subject line: ‘COVID-19 Apprenticeship success stories’.

The following information details the latest updates in relation to a few specific areas linked to our End-Point Assessment offer and the outbreak of Coronavirus.

  • Teaching Assistant Standard – LIVE
  • Customer Service Practitioner & Customer Service Specialist – Update

As well as a further update and/or reminder regarding:

  • Hospitality

And finally to request:

  • COVID-19 Apprenticeship success stories

 Teaching Assistant – Approved Alternative Assessment Method to Observation – LIVE

Further to the update we provided last week, we can confirm that following the IfATE’s approval to temporarily replace the Observation assessment with a Reflective Statement validated by an Expert Witness supported by a Question & Answer session, Assessor training has since taken place and we are now LIVE with our delivery of this alternative assessment method from today!

A reminder that if your Apprentice has already progressed through Gateway you do not need to contact us. EPA Assessors will be in contact directly with Apprentices to discuss their option to undertake the replacement assessment component and schedule, as applicable.

For all future Apprentices you submit for Gateway we have made an Alternative COVID-19 Gateway form, which we ask you to complete and which confirms the Apprentice’s assessment preferences for this observation or replacement assessment. This updated Gateway Form can be found on VERVE EPA and includes COVID-19 in the title.

Customer Service Practitioner & Customer Service Specialist Standards

We are pleased to confirm that at the end of last week the IfATE approved the Task Force group’s proposed alternative assessment method to replace the included Observation assessment within both Customer Service standards.

This means that Apprentices can be offered an alternative assessment consisting of a Witness Testimony from someone familiar with the Apprentice’s work, supported by a Question & Answer session between the Apprentice and End-Point Assessor. Further details will be included in our Apprentice Briefs, which will be available soon.

We ask for your patience this week as we prepare the assessment materials and support guidance which will be available on VERVE EPA from Friday 15th May. Assessor training is scheduled for this week with a planned go LIVE date on Monday 18th May.

If your Apprentice has already progressed through Gateway you do not need to contact us. EPA Assessors will be in contact directly with Apprentices to discuss their option to undertake the replacement assessment component and schedule as applicable from Monday 18th May.

For all future Apprentices you submit for Gateway, we have made an Alternative COVID-19 Gateway form, which we ask you to complete and which confirms the Apprentice’s assessment preferences for this observation or replacement assessment. This updated Gateway Form will be available on VERVE EPA from Friday 15th May and includes COVID-19 in the title.

Hospitality & Catering Standards

Following the updated information shared last week we’d like to update you that work is underway to produce these revised assessments and associated support materials/EPA Assessor training and can confirm that we will be ready to go LIVE with the delivery of these from Tuesday 26th May.

To recap, the replacement assessments linked to Practical Observations will be an On-Programme Evidence Portfolio with Question & Answer Session for the following standards:

  • Hospitality Team Member
  • Hospitality Supervisor
  • Commis Chef
  • Chef De Partie
  • Production Chef
  • Senior Production Chef

In addition to a replacement of the Culinary Challenge assessments with submitted menu plans (costings as applicable), MOCK EPA evidence, Witness Statements and other on-programme evidence as required supported with Question & Answer Session are needed for the following two standards:

  • Commis Chef
  • Chef De Partie

As both replacement assessments rely heavily upon mock EPA and on-programme evidence it might not be possible for all Apprentices to undertake these replacement assessments and we ask that attention is given to our updated guidance documents which will be published by our go LIVE date of 26th May.

Where evidence does not support Apprentices to undertake these replacement assessments, the DELAY option must be chosen to provide the best possible assessment opportunity for each Apprentice.

COVID-19 Apprenticeship success stories

Please share with us your good new stories so we can help celebrate all the hard work you are doing to keep Apprenticeships progressing and innovative ways you are working with your Apprentices. Get in touch on epa@tquk.org and give your email the subject line: ‘COVID-19 Apprenticeship success stories’.

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. 

TQUK
VTCT

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.

Working life has changed for almost everyone in the country, with remote practices now vital to help with self-isolation and social distancing practices. The world of Apprenticeships is no less affected by the coronavirus outbreak, with remote assessments now a vital necessity to keep Apprentices moving through to completion. 

Continue reading “Which Apprenticeship Standard assessments can be carried out remotely?”

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