Temporary Adjustments in place for End-point Assessment and Clarification on Regulatory Requirements

At this time of huge disruption, PAL is advocating an apprentice-focussed approach to ensure individuals do not miss out on important opportunities because of the current COVID-19 situation. To support this approach, we are committed to enabling completion of end-point assessment wherever possible and we are lobbying for appropriate, temporary EPA flexibilities to be introduced that maintain the integrity of assessment. This fact sheet details the adjustments and relaxations that we currently have in place and provides advice and interpretation of the current government and regulatory guidance.

Temporary Adjustments and Relaxations to End-point Assessment

General EPA Adjustments

Prescribed order of assessments. Some assessment plans stipulate that assessment components must be sat in a particular order. PAL has relaxed this requirement and the flexibility allows apprentices to have portfolios, projects and recipe logs assessed, and complete their professional discussions, prior to any applicable observations and/or tests taking place.

Employer Attendance at EPA. Assessment plans vary in that some require the employer to be present for certain components of EPA and some make it optional. We recognise that, in addition to apprentices being furloughed, line managers may be in a similar situation, or re-deployed, so attendance may not be possible. We will look at all options and available evidence, including gateway evidence and employer testimony, to ensure that employer validation of an apprentice’s performance is obtained.

Assessment Window. The current situation may mean that the usual assessment window cannot be adhered to. Apprentices will not be penalised if the assessment window needs to be extended or a break in learning needs to be applied during EPA.

Exam/MCQ/SJT Delivery. PAL will permit the following:

– Invigilation via Zoom or other similar video conferencing systems, provided that the invigilator can see both the shared screen displaying the test and the apprentice at all times. The test environment must also be inspected on camera before the test takes place to ensure suitability. Test conditions must be maintained throughout the assessment.

– Invigilation by an employer representative in the workplace at a safe distance from the apprentice. PAL will provide coaching to ensure full understanding of the invigilation requirements and record the use of employer invigilation.

– The use of a reader and a scribe to see and read the questions online to an apprentice. The apprentice will provide their answer verbally and this will be inputted by the invigilator. The apprentice must be identified and this must be recorded and saved and details will be recorded.

– PAL is looking to implement proctoring software that will enable fully remote invigilation.

Observation. PAL fully understands that in most cases, due to the Covid-19 restrictions and safe working, observations are untenable and as such we are vigorously advocating suitable assessment alternatives to enable completion of EPA. Please let us know where the current guidance and lack of flexibility is detrimental to the apprentice, training providers and employers, so we can feed this back to relevant bodies.

If an apprentice is able to undertake an observation please note that the observation will typically need to take place in the normal workplace environment with typical levels of custom/activity. We appreciate that this may not be possible currently and at the moment, IfATE is not permitting the use of Realistic Working Environments (RWE), simulations or any other assessment methods. We are continuing to seek assessment alternatives during this period so that apprentices who are deemed competent by their employer and training provider have the opportunity to achieve their apprenticeship.

Functional Skills Gateway Evidence. We recognise that Awarding Organisations may not have fully functioning certification facilities at this time, so we will accept suitable, alternative evidence of achievement as a proxy for functional skills certification.

Hospitality Standards

 PAL will undertake the following assessments, in any order, prior to observation:
– Projects and presentation
– Recipe logs
– Professional Discussions
– Testing

We are lobbying for alternatives to observations to be permitted so that apprentices can complete their programmes during this period. As yet we have not received any dispensation notice from the relevant bodies, so observations and culinary skills challenges will be the final assessments and extension of the assessment window will be utilised.

Care Standards

 PAL has relaxed the requirement for service user testimonies to be provided at Gateway for End-point Assessment. Of course, if you have them, please include them as part of your gateway submission.
 PAL recognises that many awarding organisations may not have fully functioning certification facilities at this time. To enable entry into EPA, we will accept suitable, alternative evidence of achievement as a proxy for the mandatory Care Diploma, Care Certificate and Functional Skills.

Note – if the above flexibility is utilised, Apprenticeship certificates will not be claimed by the EPAO until the mandatory evidence is provided. This may result in delays to the certification process. Awarding Organisations have noted they will endeavour to provide certificates as quickly as they can and regulators will monitor the situation, to ensure minimum disruption.

 For the mandatory Diploma, Please check with the Awarding Organisation the apprentice is registered with to ascertain what their approach is. If they are offering flexible assessment alternatives for the Diploma, please note this in the gateway submission.

Retail Standards

 Retailer standard. We will prioritise and assess the professional discussion and test prior to the observation taking place.
 The Retail Team Leader and Retail Manager standards can be undertaken and completed remotely using the flexibilities detailed above.

Management, Events and Other Standards

Event Assistant. Assessments can be undertaken and completed remotely. If, due to the current business climate and cancelled events, the planned project cannot be completed, there is an option to complete a case study in lieu of the project. PAL provides guidance on this method in our online resource library. In addition, online events are increasingly commonplace and can be the basis of the project and also provide valid portfolio evidence.

Team Leader/Supervisor and Operations/Departmental Manager. Both of these standards can be assessed remotely and assessments can take place in any order. Ideally, we would request that portfolios are submitted for assessment first and, in the case of Operations/Departmental Manager, it is useful to assess the project, early on in the assessment process.

Business Administrator. This standard can be assessed remotely and the assessments can be undertaken in any sequence. Ideally, we would review the portfolio and assess the project, at the commencement of the assessment.

Please contact us directly at epasupportservices@professionalassessment.co.uk to talk about assessment arrangements. We are here for you and our focus is on doing the right thing by the apprentice and maintaining the integrity of assessment.

Clarification of Regulatory Requirements

There is a large amount of information to digest from various sources which can make apprentice progression seem unachievable. This following FAQ section aims to clarify that information so that employers and training providers can see how they can support apprentices at this extraordinary time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q The apprentice is working from home. We’ll have to apply a break in learning, won’t we?

A No. Apprentices may continue their apprenticeship learning at home if it is practical to do so. Providers should use distance learning tools where possible. The ESFA has not defined what should be used, so there is some flexibility on this, provided that their use ensures compliance with the funding rules for evidencing learning activity and facilitates progression towards completion. Learning should be evidenced and retained by the provider in accordance with the funding rules.

Q We’re closing or can’t afford to keep the apprentice employed. I’ll have to make them redundant.

A Hopefully not. The option to furlough with support from HM Treasury will be favourable to many employers and apprentices.

Where redundancy regrettably occurs, the funding rules on redundancy are unchanged. These allow scope for apprentices to continue their programmes with ESFA funding, depending on how far through the apprenticeship the apprentice is.

Apprentices who are made redundant within six months of the final day of the practical period specified in the apprenticeship agreement may continue their apprenticeship training without being employed under an apprenticeship agreement. A provider may continue to deliver the apprenticeship training as long as all the remaining elements, and the end-point assessment, can be successfully delivered. The ESFA will fund 100% of the remaining costs of the price negotiated up to the funding band maximum.

Apprentices who are made redundant more than six months before their final day may continue their apprenticeship training without being employed under an apprenticeship agreement. A provider may continue to deliver the apprenticeship training. The ESFA will fund the remaining costs of the price agreed between you and the employer for 12 weeks, while the apprentice seeks another employer.

Q Our business is closed until further notice and the apprentice is furloughed. Now we’ll have to apply a break in learning, won’t we?

A Not necessarily. When apprentices are furloughed, providers and employers should consider whether the programme can continue. Of course, the apprentice must be paid for time spent training. The latest guidance from HM Revenue and Customs allows scope for online training to take place while apprentices are furloughed, provided they are paid at least the NLW/NMW for the time spent, even if this is more than the 80% of their wage that will be subsidised.

If a programme cannot continue, providers may apply a break in learning.

Q My apprentice is in EPA but is redundant/furloughed. This will have to be paused and continued once they return to work, won’t it?

A Not necessarily. The funding rules and guidance make it possible for EPA to take place during redundancy/furlough situations and our package of temporary EPA adjustments provide more details on how we can support this.

Q None of the above applies, how should we apply a break in learning?

A During March 2020, employers should not use the apprenticeship service to pause or stop payments to the provider, where training has been delivered.

Breaks in learning should only be reported in the ILR when they will exceed 4 weeks.

Where an apprentice commences a break in learning in March 2020, and where the provider holds evidence of learning delivery to the apprentice in March, the provider should report the apprentice as in learning in the March 2020 ILR and report the break in learning in their April 2020 ILR.

Training that could not be delivered in the days in March in which the apprentice was on the break should be delivered when the apprentice returns. Providers should consider this when planning the duration for the return to the programme.

Of course, providers must retain evidence of learning delivery in March, as the ESFA reserves the right to recover payment if the training was not delivered.

The ESFA Funding Rules apply for breaks in learning from 1 April onwards. The provider reports the break in learning when it occurs. The employer should pause, not stop, the apprenticeship on the apprenticeship service when the break commences.

Minimum durations for apprenticeships must still be adhered to once the apprentice returns to the programme. Planned end dates of a programme or components such as maths and English may be exceeded.

Driving Further Support for Apprentices

PAL is in constant contact with regulators and partners such as IfATE, ESFA, EQAPs and other key stakeholders. We will circulate further advice and guidance as it becomes available and will contact apprentices, providers and employers to ensure we can maintain the momentum of apprentices’ assessments.

We understand that apprentices may, in some cases, be unable to complete their end-point assessment and will not return to the programme through no fault of their own. To support future progression opportunities, we will provide a PAL-branded ‘Record of Achievement’ for all apprentices confirming end-point assessment components that have been successfully completed.

We wish all apprentices, employers and training providers all the best during this extraordinary period.