Andy Cheshire looks at the benefits of End Point Assessment

Our first cohorts of Apprentices are going through End Point Assessment and as an organisation, with our partners, we are 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 am seeing…

Apprentices Love It (once it’s completed) – there is tremendous nervousness in the weeks leading up (do you remember your exams?) but the process (at least with the EPA partners we have experienced, @FDQ and @OAL) has been very positive for the Apprentices. It gives them a chance to showcase what they know and brings some mental focus for them to hang the whole development programme together. It really is validation of what they’ve been working tremendously hard on during the previous months, in a way that a training provider can not completely do.

Work from the End Backwards – I am of the convinced opinion that the first session of learning should be a discussion about the End Point, in order to fix very early on in the Apprentice’s mind what the end goal is. I’ve seen the thinking of our facilitators shift from delivering a programme to build towards the End Point to starting with the End Point and referencing this throughout. Quite a change in mindset for us all.

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 that then influences the discussion about the time and effort (the 20%) required to get there. Don’t put barriers in the way and they won’t be there.

Don’t underestimate the length of Gateway – when we put our first schemes of work 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 then internal and external moderation is much longer that we envisaged – so allow for this! Of course, what you can do is be preparing the Apprentice for EPA during this process, but it does need careful planning.

Think about Coordination – if you think your existing claims, compliance and IQA systems will be fit for purpose when it comes to getting the flow of the EPA process, think again. I would counsel against over-designing this up-front (as you may well have completely misunderstood what you need), instead think of key personnel that you need to be keeping 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.

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 when confronted with the reality of results being communicated to the employer and provider in parallel and then thinking about who actually ‘owns’ the news with so make stakeholders involved is an interesting conundrum. So discuss how comms. should happen with the employer before the results come – put the graduating Apprentice at the heart of that – then think about the wider interests as the next part of that.

To help you to understand more about the overall structure of assessment, take a look at the EPA FAQ guide from Instructus Skills. Written for employers and providers, it’s your guide to working with an EPAO and making the most of the EPA process.

I hope others find these raw 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, actually, it’s all going to be pretty good!