A lack of regulatory powers for quality assurance providers to impose compliance with rules related to apprentice assessment was a main reason for handing the job over to Ofqual and the Office for Students (OfS).
This is according to the new and very first ‘external quality assurance’ (EQA) yearly report, carried out by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (ifATE) and cited by FE Week. It examines the main findings around how end-point assessment (EPA) has been delivered this year.
It said there were a ‘small number of incidents’ where the EPA plan or conditions of EPA companies have ‘not been complied with and where the independence or validity of assessment has been compromised as a result.’
There were no instances on the standards for which the ifATE or Ofqual currently provide EQA where they needed to take enforcement action. However, there were a number of cases where other EQA providers – which are either employer-led or professional bodies without regulatory powers – encountered resistance from assessment bodies.
‘The majority of EQA providers lack the regulatory powers to enforce changes from EPAOs (end-point assessment organisations),’ noted the report.
‘This has meant that a number of EPAOs have refused to make changes requested by EQA providers, either in a timely manner or in some cases at all, which allows unsatisfactory end-point assessment practices to continue.’
As the report explained, regulatory regimes and quality assurance help to identify and take action where there are cases of poor practice. It said that the cases of resistance are ‘clearly unacceptable.’
While the report does not explicitly state the cases in question or the names of those involved, it does mention ‘egregious incidents’ of the breaches and malpractice of the conditions. These include an EPAO attempting to evaluate apprentices based on an obsolete version of an assessment plan that was no longer relevant nor endorsed by the sector; and evaluating apprentices based on a standard it is not registered to deliver.
This comes after news of serious government concerns over the EPAO market’s maturity, with industry leaders previously calling for the EPAO register to be ‘purged’.
ifATE announced that non-compliance with EPAO is a key reason why it is transitioning to a new method where all EQA will be conducted by Ofqual or the Office for Students for integrated degree apprenticeships – with both bodies having regulatory powers.
The government has given quality assurance responsibility to around 20 employer-led or professional bodies since the reforms to apprenticeships three years ago, as well as to ifATE, OfS and Ofqual.
The move to the new and streamlined EQA started this year, with almost 70 standards moved to Ofqual last month, and will continue next year. It is expected that the full transition will be complete by summer 2020.
ifATE’s report explains that there is more work to do to target other aspects of EQA to make sure that gradings are applied in a fair way across apprenticeship standards, that reasonable adjustments are made fairly and consistently, together with elements of the design and delivery of certain assessment methods such as multiple choice questions and professional discussions.
Jennifer Coupland, ifATE chief executive, commented: “I’m incredibly proud of all the fantastic work the sector has done with the institute to ensure that EPA and EQA has continued successfully throughout the pandemic, allowing large numbers of apprentices to complete and move on with their exciting careers.
“While there are areas to improve on, this report shows that the vast majority of assessment is being delivered to a high standard which is encouraging as we look ahead to 2021.”