End-point assessment – what's the point?
Andy Cheshire is managing director at CQM Training and Consultancy and uses OneFile to deliver apprenticeship standards. Here are his thoughts about end-point assessment:
Our first cohorts of apprentices are going through end-point assessment and as an organisation, with our partners, we’re all learning a lot in a short space of time. All those thoughts, worries, fears and fantasies are here now, and they may be approaching for others, so I thought it might be worth sharing some early thoughts of what I’m seeing...
1. Apprentices love it (once it's completed)
There is tremendous nervousness in the weeks leading up to the EPA (do you remember your exams?) but the process has been very positive for the apprentices – at least with the EPA partners we’ve experienced, @FDQ and @OAL. It gives apprentices a chance to showcase what they know and brings some mental focus to the whole development programme. It really is validation of what they've been working tremendously hard on during the previous months – a validation that a training provider can’t completely deliver.
2. Work from the end backwards
I'm convinced that the first session of learning should be a discussion about the end-point assessment to fix very early on in the apprentice's mind what the end goal is. I've seen our facilitators shift from delivering a programme that builds towards the end point to starting with the end point and referencing it throughout. It’s quite a change in mindset for us all.
3. Employers get it
I think we were all worried that in the new world of standards, employers might not be sympathetic to an extra step at the end of the programme – quite the opposite. Employers see that this validation step is vital, and this influences their thoughts about the time and effort (the 20%) required to get there. Don't put barriers in the way and they won't be there.
4. Don't underestimate the length of gateway
When we put our first schemes together for standards two years ago, we sort of assumed that gateway was a single day – the programme gets finished then the apprentice can be booked in for EPA. Well, it doesn't quite work like that – especially in programmes with embedded qualifications. The time taken for final IQA and the internal and external moderation is much longer that we envisaged – so allow for this! Of course, you can use this time to prepare the apprentice for EPA, but it does need careful planning.
5. Think about coordination
If you think your existing claims, compliance and IQA systems will be fit for purpose when it comes to the EPA process, think again. I would counsel against over-designing this up-front as you may well have misunderstood what you need. Instead think of key personnel that you need to keep an eye on completion, IQA, claims, uploading to portals, booking, coordinating with employers and managing the communications. Once you've started to observe what actually happens, then you can start design your new processes.
6. Communication of success
The first thing you want to do as a provider when your first cohort goes through EPA successfully is to shout about it. But as the results need to be shared with the employer and provider in parallel – and it’s unclear which stakeholder ‘owns’ the news – it can be an interesting conundrum. Discuss how the results should be shared before they come, put the graduating apprentices at the heart of your plans, and think about the wider interests too.
I hope others find these observations useful and give those who are still in the semi-panic stage some comfort that actually, not only is it all going to be OK, it's all going to be pretty good!