As an End-Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO), TQUK is dedicated to maintaining high quality standards in apprenticeships. The very root of what we do – assessment – is about making sure that apprentices are fully job-ready when they finish their programme and that national standards have been met.
That’s why recent revelations that 4,443 apprentices enrolled in certain higher level apprenticeships have gone unregulated since 2016/17 are so disappointing. In this particular instance, apprentices enrolled in these programmes were with training providers that were not inspected since the programmes began. In short, oversight is missing and there is now a lot of doubt about whether quality standards for these training programmes are being met.
So how did this happen?
According to the Department for Education’s apprenticeship accountability statement, responsibility for ensuring the quality of training for higher level apprenticeships is the responsibility of the Office for Students (OfS). However, the OfS has said that their remit only extends to those apprenticeships with a prescribed higher education qualification and that these apprenticeships had no degree element. The way the document is worded, it is not entirely clear who is responsible for what, and when the story broke, Ofsted and the OfS started playing pass the parcel.
A Larger Issue
This situation is representative of an ongoing structural problem with establishing and implementing the required oversight and quality procedures needed for apprenticeships. It is not limited to higher level apprenticeships.
Since TQUK started delivering End-Point Assessment, we have encountered level 2 and 3 apprenticeship standards that do not have confirmed external quality assurers (EQA), despite the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA) stating that EQAs would be in place for all apprenticeship standards upon launch. As we have discussed in a previous blog, TQUK is doing everything we can to establish quality procedures that all apprentices deserve. EPAOs are also forced to navigate the often poorly written assessment plans without any support or comparability framework. Apprenticeship standards can easily slip when proper quality assurance procedures aren’t put in place by the regulators.
The Institute for Apprenticeships also continues with its ‘Better, Faster’ campaign to publish more apprenticeship standards while improving the experience for trailblazer groups. This is great and standards need to be released faster. However, not enough has been done to resolve issues raised around some early produced assessment plans which lack detail and have no comparability. Support for EPAOs has also been lacking. There needs to be far more effort to ensure that no apprentice is left behind and that rigorous quality procedures are in place for all apprenticeships.
As an EPAO, we are all about quality. It’s our job to make sure that apprentices receive a quality assessment, and by extension that employers get quality apprentices. We welcome more quality assurance into the apprenticeships process. Above all, we want all organisations involved in apprenticeships to be held accountable.
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