Guidance for EPAOs During COVID
The current COVID situation has caused a lot of disruption to the End-Point Assessment system, and although many assessment flexibilities have been introduced, there has been confusion in general.
The Institute for Apprenticeships has stated that all flexibilities will continue until at least the end of August 2021, and at least 12 weeks’ notice will be given before any of these are removed. The decisions will be more employer-led due to the individual circumstances, and of course will involve both providers and EPAOs. Let’s take a look into these flexibilities in further detail.
Overview of Flexibilities
Where possible, it is advised that apprentices continue with their scheduled EPAs. The requirements of the EPA are set out in the assessment plan. In the event that the apprentice has had to change employers due to losing their job, they should still continue with their EPA as originally planned.
If it is not possible to meet the deadline of the scheduled EPA (due to staff and visitors not being allowed on-site, for example), it should be rescheduled. It is important to reschedule the EPA for a time when all of the requirements detailed in the assessment plan can be met. It may be that a break in learning is needed if the gateway stage has not yet been reached, or there is a pause after the gateway until the EPA can be taken.
Breaks In Learning
If training cannot be continued, there should be an agreement between the apprentice, employer and provider to instigate a break in learning. It is important that providers and employers remain in contact with their EPAO for specific guidance on this. Training providers will not receive payments for apprentices who are on breaks in learning, so this is something to be aware of.
There are some apprenticeship funding rules that have been created to make a provision for this disruption in learning though:
- Less than and up to 4 weeks – neither the employer nor the training provider needs to report the interruption, and the end date for the apprenticeship should remain the same. No changes are made to the payment of funding.
- More than 4 weeks – a formal break in learning must be reported, and payment of funding to the training provider will be paused for the duration of this break.
Optional Adjustments to EPAs
In some cases, it may not be possible to schedule a break in learning or rescheduling the EPA. Here are some examples of these situations:
- The apprenticeship can’t be completed before their term of employment ends
- The apprentice can’t progress onto a higher salary
- The apprentice can’t move onto further training or to another employer
As a result of these extenuating circumstances, the Institute for Apprenticeships has created a series of optional adjustments to the assessment, so that the EPA can continue as scheduled. The three main categories are:
- General flexibilities across all standards
- Flexibilities available which require prior approval from an External Quality Assurance Provider (EQAP) on a case-by-case basis
- ‘Temporary discretions’ which are flexibilities that apply to a specific apprenticeship standard
Furlough / Unpaid Leave
Where apprentices are on furlough, they are still allowed to continue with their training remotely. It is best to check that the training provider is able to deliver this option though. If the nature of the employment changes, and the apprentice is no longer supported to complete their apprenticeship, a break in learning is fine. If the break is going to last longer than four weeks, the training provider should report this in their ILR submission.
It is the responsibility of the EPAO to record and track any COVID-19 related actions. This includes the application of any flexibilities, whether they are standard or any of the ‘temporary discretions’ as listed above.
Assessments, if carried out, must be in a supervised and controlled environment. It is important that EPAOs assess that security measurements have been implemented, and details of invigilation should also be recorded. If an EPAO needs further clarification on the flexibilities or the specific directions, they should contact their External Quality Assurance Provider in the first instance.
We hope you have found this guidance useful, we are in the process of putting together a series around the flexibilities and changes to EPA during COVID, so keep an eye on our blog page for further updates. If you have any questions at all, please give the team at Brooks and Kirk a call on 01205 805 155.
Steve is a Chartered Manager and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.
He provides Educational Consultancy to the 19+ sector as well as being an Assessor, IQA, EPA and Digital Marketing Professional. When not doing any of these he finds time, every now and then, to write blogs and articles.