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Posted By Apprenticeships Directory on 12/09/2018 in Apprenticeship Sector News Stories

Bringing Consistency to External Quality Assurance (EQA)

Bringing Consistency to External Quality Assurance (EQA)

There were some fascinating discussions and comments arising from the FEQ event last week. One of the topic areas was the External Quality Assurance (EQA) of End-point Assessment.

When apprenticeship Standards are designed by the employer groups they have the choice of 4 external quality assurance approaches: an employer led model, a professional body, Ofqual, or the Institute for Apprenticeships. Based on the August ESFA spreadsheet of apprenticeship standards there were 50 named EQA organisations.  IfA account for approximately 45%, Ofqual approximately 15%, with the remaining 40% across employer groups and professional bodies. 

When I was working within an End-point Assessment Organisation (EPAO) I was lucky enough to only have one EQA organisation across the 9 Standards we were approved to deliver end-point assessment for, but there are some EPAOs with as many as 5 EQA organisations. 

Open Awards appears to be the most advanced EQA organisation, having delivered EQA on behalf of the IfA since August 2017. Beyond that, based on the information contained on the IfA website, only 10 EQA organisations have received a letter of recognition from the IfA with approval dates ranging from February to June 2018:

  • Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), Tech Partnership, People 1st, UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT), Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS), Skills for Care, Engineering Equipment and Material Users' Association, The Worshipful Company of Saddlers, Solicitors Regulation Authority, Retail Motor Industry Standards and Certification (RMISC)

Given that recognition is so recent and that so many are still going through the process of recognition it is not surprising that there is a lack of information / clarity for EPAOs on EQA. I have been regularly checking EQA organisation websites for updates, and here are some examples of the information that is available:

  • IfA – guidance and templates for EQA organisations
  • People 1st - Information available on website. People first use an online system and have common approach guidance available to approved EPAOs
  • Engineering Council – EQA manual available (Dec 2017)
  • Skills for Care – information available on their website
  • Ofqual – conditions and requirements available on .gov
  • Retail Motor Industry Standards and Certification (RMISC) – dedicated website but no specific details yet

Given the infancy of EQA for Apprenticeship Standards I believe that it is the prime opportunity / time to develop a universal approach to EQA. This would enable nationally recognised benchmarks to be established, which in turn builds confidence in the EQA process and helps to reduce the bureaucracy for EPAOs dealing with multiple EQA organisations. Of course, this is my personal view and some may argue that if you have one approach then is no point in having a choice of EQA organisation.

I am passionate about delivery, consistency and quality and I am seeing too much time being absorbed into the bureaucracy of preparing for EQA. What I would describe as “We don’t know what they will ask us for so let us ‘throw’ everything at them and hope they find what they need”. In fact, to be honest, when I worked within in an EPAO and went through EQA for the first time, I gathered everything we had and sent it across to the EQA organisation. The feedback was excellent, but I am sure they did not require everything that I sent across. By the next EQA visit I had tailored the approach and documentation to become more streamline and still received exellent feedback. I now produce and use a matrix when working with EPAOs, mapping back to the Assessment Plan, Standard, Conditions, Funding Rules and any EQA organisation guidance, to try to help reduce the burden.

What are your views should there be an organisation championing a single approach to EQA or should it be left to evolve? 

Jacqui Molkenthin

End-point Assessment Specialist

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