The Gateway review is a critical milestone in the apprenticeship journey in that it denotes a move from on-programme delivery to independent assessment.
What’s the purpose of the Gateway Review?
The aim of the gateway review is to judge the apprentice’s readiness for end-point assessment, and readiness means that those involved in the on-programme delivery have agreed that the knowledge, skills and behaviours of a particular standard have been sufficiently covered and the employer has decided that the apprentice is suitably competent and prepared for independent assessment. The review should be an evaluative process, as opposed to a tick box exercise, and should be conducted so that the discussion is robust, without descending into a form of examination or interrogation.
What should take place before the gateway review to establish readiness?
A robust apprenticeship programme will ensure the apprentice has access to a range of learning that will help them develop the requisite knowledge, skills and behaviours. The most effective programmes will also feature rigorous on-programme assessment, which should measure the impact of learning and evaluate how the apprentice is progressively meeting the requirements of the standard. Ideally, on-programme assessment instruments should replicate the assessment methods used in the end-point assessment itself. In doing this, as well as acting as a measure of progress, the apprentice will become familiar with the assessment format, albeit in a slightly different context.
Assessment readiness is more than just covering the standards, it is about the apprentice’s confidence and capacity to cope with a formal independent assessment process. Mock assessments are an effective way of measuring readiness.
A mock assessment, prior to the gateway review is highly recommended for two reasons:
1. A mock assessment helps the apprentice with timings for tests; a mock test is obviously an opportunity to review knowledge, but also to look at test etiquette and how best to approach questions. Assessments involving timed skills challenges require a reasonable level of planning on the part of the apprentice, so a mock can test the apprentice’s planned schedule and allow them to make adjustments prior to the assessment proper. Assessments such as professional discussions, presentations and competency based interviews are in nearly all cases time-bound, so a mock assessment can assist the apprentice in coping with nerves, developing succinct responses to questions and will augment their presentation skills
2. A mock assessment, if undertaken in a robust fashion, should be a reasonable indicator of assessment readiness and therefore mocks can be a central point of reference in a gateway review. It should be stressed a successful mock result is not a pre-requisite for a successful assessment, however it is a tangible indicator for all concerned parties
Mini mocks can be used throughout the programme, and a full mock is used to best effect about 4-8 weeks before a proposed gateway review or the planned end date of on-programme learning.
Who is involved in the gateway review?
The gateway review takes place between an employer representative (typically, but not always, the apprentice’s line manager), the apprentice and, where a training provider is engaged, the trainer/coach who is currently working with the apprentice.
When does the Gateway review take place?
The gateway review should take place at the end of the planned apprenticeship training period. However, the end of training, does not necessarily mean that an apprentice is ready to proceed to the final stage of their apprenticeship, so the majority of gateway reviews are not solely triggered by a timeline; they are arranged on the basis that at least one of the parties involved in the apprenticeship delivery perceives that the apprentice is capable of undertaking the specific end-point assessment.
Some standards and assessment plans have a protracted or complicated gateway process, and in these cases it is worth talking to your EPAO, to establish a mutually understood interpretation.
How can readiness be determined and what needs to be in place as evidence for the EPAO?
The apprentice must have valid evidence of functional skills attainment, or acceptable equivalents, generally the EPAO will require proof of certification, but can refer to the Personal Learner Record (PLR).
Where assessment plans mandate that an apprentice must acquire a specific qualification prior to entering end-point assessment, completion of the qualification should be confirmed at the gateway review and evidence should be available to submit to the EPAO.
What resources and information are available to aid an effective gateway review?
Training Providers in the first instance may have checklists and guides to inform their employer clients and apprentices in how to conduct a gateway review. EPAOs can also provide checklists and gateway review documents, in line with the assessment plan and EQA requirements. Check what is available and determine if the EPAO requires you to use their specific documentation, or whether they will work with in-house documentation. It is important that the outcomes and decisions of a gateway review are recorded and evidenced in a fashion that the selected EPAO will accept.
What happens at the gateway review?
The apprentice, employer and training provider representative should review and evaluate the apprentice’s performance against the knowledge, skills and behaviours of the specific standard. The gateway review should be a discussion and not conducted as interrogation or be reduced to a formulaic interview, which involves lots of box–ticking. In some instances it might be appropriate to question the apprentice on specific aspects of the standard, or their assertion of competence, to establish readiness, however bombarding the apprentice with questions, rather than reviewing their journey and progress is less likely to produce a reliable gateway review decision.
Apprentices should be able to explain how they have met the standard, with reference to evidence to substantiate such claims. Results of mock assessments, reviews, portfolios and logs where applicable can inform and support a readiness decision.
What happens if one party does not agree with the readiness decision?
In the unlikely case of a disagreement regarding the apprentice’s readiness for end-point assessment, firstly establish why there is a difference of opinion. Is this a capability or confidence issue, a genuine assertion that the apprentice is not ready yet, or a desire for absolute perfection?
If the apprentice does not believe they are ready for EPA, it is critical they describe their reasons for this and make clear where they perceive they have performance gaps, and what they need to do to address these. End-point assessment is high stakes assessment and it is understandable that apprentices are nervous about the prospect of failure. In cases of nerves, review the mock assessments and offer reassurance, EPAOs are not out to find fault or undermine any individual apprentice, so again build confidence by getting the apprentice to reflect on how they have progressed.
Training providers and employers should also look to see what flexibility the EPAO can offer regarding assessment sequencing, where choice is permitted. For example, if the apprentice is more comfortable undertaking the observation first, as opposed to a test, ask if this can be organised.
If the employer does not consider the apprentice is ready, what has prompted this decision? Is it the result of one-off result or activity, or is it a case that the employer believes that the apprentice’s current performance is below the standard in several aspects. The employer should articulate where the areas for development are, and agree as to how to meet these needs. This situation would be rare under normal circumstances, as the on-programme coaching, formative assessment and feedback activities, and corrective coaching should ensure that the gateway review is not the vehicle for delivering ‘bad news’.
Where the Training Provider does not consider the apprentice ready, as with the employer and apprentice, concerns should be stated, recommendations made and recorded. It’s important to remember that the employer has the casting vote on assessment readiness.
In all cases, best practice would suggest that the decision, alongside a precise action plan with agreed timescales, is put into place. The EPAO should also be advised of the decision and have an indication of when the apprentice will be ready.
It is not the role of the EPAO to direct the outcome of the gateway review.
What happens following the Gateway if the apprentice is deemed to be ‘ready’?
The decision of readiness needs to be recorded, in line with the guidance from the training provider and selected EPAO and the EPAO needs readiness notification, along with the proof of functional skills attainment and qualifications, where mandated by the assessment plan.
At this point of the apprenticeship journey, to support the move to end-point assessment, it is worth discussing preferred dates for assessment, sequencing of assessments and whether the assessments will be conducted of face to face or remotely (where there is a choice). For assessments involving observations, consider times and days that will allow the apprentice to best demonstrate their abilities; for tests think about suitable testing locations and if the apprentice needs to attend a test centre, check they can get to the centre. If a project forms part of the end-point assessment, confirm project remit and parameters, and where the project has to be completed during the end-point assessment window, confirm arrangements for completion and submission.
Ideally, any special considerations or reasonable adjustments to assessment should have been agreed early in the programme, but at gateway it is worth consolidating any such arrangements and confirming these with the EPAO.
Typically the training provider will act as the liaison point with the EPAO. Once the EPAO has received the gateway information, they will contact the employer to arrange the assessment schedule.