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External quality assurance of apprenticeships

In 2018 we were approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) as an external quality assurance (EQA) provider of apprenticeship end-point assessment to deliver one of the first ever models of employer-led external quality assurance.

EQA explained

EQA, at its simplest, checks the consistency of quality and approach to end-point assessment across an apprenticeship standard, regardless of which end-point assessment organisation (EPAO) has delivered the assessment and where and when it is conducted.

As part of the process in England of developing apprenticeship standards and assessment plans, employer trailblazer groups are required to select one of four models of external quality assurance; 

  • Employer-led: Arrangements involve an employer led body
  • Professional body: Professional bodies set and uphold standards for occupations, operate codes of conduct for professionals
  • Ofqual regulation: Organisations must comply with Ofqual’s requirements
  • The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education's EQA Service: Is available where none of the other options are suitable.
Benefits of our employer-led EQA model

Critically, the EQA that we operate is not a ‘tick-box’ exercise and key themes in the approach include:

  • Employers taking control and accountability for quality
  • Evidence of results which show that apprenticeships culminating in end-point assessment add value to apprentices, employers and a sector as whole. Therefore, output is as important as ‘process’. 
  • Preventing poor quality and/or assessment obstacles, rather than waiting to expose them. Through open, transparent and productive relationships with EPAOs, we identify potential issues early on and put a course of action in place to deal with them quickly. 
  • Continuous improvement to continually maximise the effectiveness of apprenticeships
Our role

Having facilitated, funded and undertaken development of over 15 apprenticeship standards on behalf trailblazers in hospitality, retail, travel and aviation (which brought together employers from across the sector as part of the government’s radical reform to create new employer-led apprenticeship standards), we were nominated by employers to manage the EQA process on behalf of employer-led boards.

The focus of our external quality assurance process is on four defined areas to ensure compliance, including: consistency of assessment materials; competence and performance of staff; the internal quality assurance checks and the overall planning and reporting of the apprenticeship end-point assessment process. 

To undertake our external quality assurance activities we use the quality model of plan-do-review:

Plan: The focus of the external quality assurance activity over a period of time, in conjunction with the apprenticeship boards.

Do: Including providing:

  • Support and guidance to end-point assessment organisations in their development of end-point assessment methods
  • External quality assurance monitoring visits
  • Sampling apprenticeship assessment evidence
  • Undertaking cross EPAO reviews
  • Facilitating end-point assessment organisation forums
  • Dissemination of good practice

Review: The outcomes of the external quality assurance process and reporting these to the apprenticeship boards and the Institute for Apprenticeships. The analysis of the outcomes will inform:

  • The apprenticeship standard review process
  • Improving practice
  • The focus of the external quality assurance process
  • Providing evidence of adding value

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